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. World powers launch new talks on possible sanctions on Iran
NEW YORK, Sept 26 (AFP) Sep 27, 2007
Major world powers launched a new round of talks on Wednesday to consider a third series of sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program although the United States expects negotiations to be tough.

Political directors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as Germany met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss detailed elements of a third Security Council resolution on Iran, officials said.

The officials from the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain as well as Germany will meet again on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will also meet in New York on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Britain's David Miliband, France's Bernard Kouchner and Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The aim is "to chart a way ahead, a diplomatic path forward for the rest of the autumn as we seek to continue this good cooperation internationally," said US Under Secretary of State for political affairs Nicholas Burns.

"But I wouldn't anticipate concluding negotiations on a sanctions resolution."

He said the talks would not only focus on calls to impose a third wave of economic sanctions against Iran, recalling that the United States proposed in May 2006 to join the European dialogue with Iran on condition it suspended its enrichment activities.

"But with the failure of the Iranian government over the last year and four months to accept that offer, we have no other alternative but to continue the sanctions," he said.

The political directors of the five powers plus Germany met in Washington last week but failed to reach an agreement on the issue, with Moscow firmly opposed to a third set of UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

And Burns acknowledged the talks were still ongoing and proving tough.

"We are not going to have a resolution this week. It is going to take some time. But I do believe we will get there," he said.

Iran and the IAEA agreed on a timetable last month for Tehran to provide answers to outstanding questions over its nuclear program, and officials from the UN's nuclear watchdog are in Iran for talks.

"The negotiations between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran began today and are going to continue for two or three days," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a statement.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran's program for the past four years but has so far failed to conclude whether it is peaceful or not.

Enriching uranium is normally a key component of the cycle to make nuclear fuel but in highly-enriched form the uranium can be used to make the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.

Iran rejects Western charges that it is trying to build atomic weapons under the guise of its civilian nuclear program and insists it is entitled to pursue uranium enrichment as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, Tehran has refused to rein in its suspect nuclear program and in particular uranium enrichment, which can be used to supply the fuel for nuclear arms.

Rice held talks here Wednesday with her counterparts from pro-Western Arab countries on Iran's "hegemonistic" ambitions in the Gulf region, a senior State Department official said.

The talks brought together foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- plus Egypt and Jordan.

"That conversation was dominated by their deep concern about Iran," a senior US official said. "They see a hegemonistic Iran trying to exploit the regional flashpoints and establish a position of superiority vis a vis the Arab countries."

The US Senate also Wednesday called for Iran's Revolutionary Guards to be officially designated as a "foreign terrorist organization," one day after the House of Representatives passed a similar measure.

The Senate voted 76-22 for the non-binding amendment to place the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, on the US terrorist blacklist.

Such a designation if adopted by the US government would open the corps and affiliated companies to economic sanctions.

US military officials and lawmakers have accused the Revolutionary Guard of arming Shiite militias in Iraq, and supplying sophisticated roadside bombs used to kill US soldiers in the war-torn nation.

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