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. Security Council states want more time on Iran sanctions: France
WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (AFP) Feb 01, 2008
France said Friday that some UN Security Council members were asking for more time to consider additional sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

Without naming the countries, French envoy to Washington Pierre Vimont said a "few" members wanted to wait for Iran to clear up questions over its nuclear program with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.

In addition, he said, it would take "some time" to get an agreement from some of the council's non-permanent members on the proposed third set of sanctions over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

The Security Council on Monday held informal talks on a third sanctions resolution, a draft of which was agreed by the five veto-wielding permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

The proposed new measures include an outright travel ban on officials involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programs and inspections of shipments to and from Iran if there are suspicions of prohibited goods.

"Some of the members of the Security Council would like to wait to see how the present contacts taking place between Mr (IAEA chief Mohamed) ElBaradei and the Iranian authorities go and how far he will reach a satisfactory agreement on his action regarding the controls he has been asking for," Vimont told a forum of the Middle East Institute in Washington.

Iran was supposed to clear up all outstanding issues related to its past and present nuclear activities with ElBaradei by mid February but reports say it has sought an extension to the end of February or beginning of March.

Vimont also said, "Not only that we have to get an agreement from the Russians and the Chinese but now we also have to get an agreement among some of the non-permanent members in the Security Council and this may take some time."

The French envoy singled out "new" non-permanent members, saying, "we want to reach consensus among those and there is more work to be done."

The non-permanent members elected to the council in January were Libya, Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica and Croatia.

Vimont said that despite the difficulties, "at least if at the end of the day, we get a new resolution by consensus I think the political message addressed to Tehran will still be a very strong one."

The West fears that Iran is using its nuclear drive to try to build atomic weapons, a charge Tehran has consistently denied, saying it is aimed at generating electricity.

Uranium enrichment is a process which makes nuclear fuel but can also be diverted to produce the fissile core of atomic bombs.

Vimont said that the international community should "be very firm" in insisting Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program for any further negotiations.

If not, he said, in three or four years, the program would reach a "final point."

"There is really a practical need for suspension," he said.

On the possibility of the European Union imposing its own sanctions on Iran, Vimont said a "majority" of the members wanted to "wait and see" how the UN Security Council acted on the third sanctions resolution.

"In fact, work is going in Brussels. We are preparing the necessary text in draft form. Definitely, a decision would only be taken once a decision has been taken in the Security Council."

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