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. US admits 'tactical differences' with Russia, China on Iran
WASHINGTON, Dec 12 (AFP) Dec 12, 2007
The United States has "tactical differences" with Russia and China on adopting new UN sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

But Rice, speaking to USA Today after fresh talks with them, said the major powers still agreed on a carrot-and-stick strategy with Tehran despite new US intelligence showing Iran had stopped an alleged atomic arms program in 2003.

"Well, we've had affirmations from everyone that the two-track strategy remains in place," Rice told the daily when asked if the National Intelligence Estimate, published December 3, undercut the US drive for sanctions.

"We have some tactical differences with Russia, in particular, and to a certain extent, China, about timing, about the nature of any further sanctions," Rice was quoted as saying.

"But I do believe that people understand that we need to continue moving forward," she added.

The United States has been involved in talks with Russia, China, Britain and France -- the five permanent UN Security Council members that all have veto power -- and Germany.

The strategy aims at offering Iran a dialogue that could give it economic benefits if it stops enriching uranium, or at threatening a third round of punitive sanctions.

The political directors of the US State Department and foreign ministries of the five other countries held a 90-minute conference call on Tuesday about Iran's nuclear program, but did not finalize a draft sanctions resolution.

"There will need to be another" conference call, Rice told the newspaper.

Her spokesman Sean McCormack told a news briefing at the State Department on Wednesday that the new conference call could be held "as early as early next week."

Rice told USA Today: "We continue to have some tactical differences about what we might do going forward."

Rice said Monday that she hoped Washington would be able to submit a third binding UN resolution on Iran before the Security Council in the next few weeks.

Russia and China have been reluctant to endorse new sanctions.

Washington fears Iran's program is for a nuclear weapon, while Tehran insists it is peaceful.

Rice added that "there is clearly a reduction in violence with some of the groups associated with Iran" while the United States and Iran were due to send experts to new talks in Baghdad next week.

But she said "I don't know... whether Iran has, in fact, pulled back."

She said she believes the improvement may be a result of "very aggressive" US action against Iran's Quds Force and Iranian operatives in Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari announced Monday that US and Iranian experts would meet about the situation in Iraq on December 18, the fourth such meeting between two countries that have not had diplomatic ties for more than 25 years.

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