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. Major powers want Iran sanctions vote at UN soon
WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (AFP) Feb 26, 2008
The United States Monday pressed for a prompt UN Security Council vote on a new set of sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program, which Tehran warned would harm the credibility of the UN nuclear watchdog.

The six major powers seeking new sanctions want the 15-member Council to adopt a resolution soon, a US statement Department spokesman said Monday.

Western members of the council said the vote on a third set of sanctions against Iran was likely to take place Friday. They felt confident there were enough votes to ensure passage, which requires nine votes and no veto from the five permanent members.

The United States and its Western allies want Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment program, which they fear would be used to build an atomic bomb. Iran insists its nuclear program exists for civilian energy purposes.

Top officials of the council's five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- plus Germany discussed in Washington an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report released Friday on Iran's nuclear activities and the next steps at the UN panel, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

The United States and its European allies are pushing for new sanctions after the UN atomic watchdog said it could still not confirm if the Iranian atomic drive was peaceful.

"We continue to expect a vote soon on the draft sanctions resolution currently being discussed in New York," Casey said in a statement.

In New York, Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said the "resolution will harm the credibility" of the IAEA.

If the IAEA's credibility is undermined by the Security Council, Khazaee told a press luncheon: "The big question would be that in future: which credible agency is going to monitor the nuclear activities of other countries?"

Khazaee said the Islamic Republic had resolved all outstanding questions raised by the agency so far, and reiterated that Tehran would not comply with the latest council resolution because it was based on allegations and "not on the IAEA report."

"We believe that from the legal point view, there is no basis to consider the Iranian nuclear program in the Security Council," Khazaee said.

Britain and France introduced a draft resolution at the Security Council on Thursday. But non-permanent members South Africa, Indonesia, Libya and Vietnam have expressed reservations about the proposed resolution.

The six powers are pursuing a carrot-and-stick strategy on Iran, threatening sanctions while at the same time offering economic, scientifc and diplomatic cooperation to get the Islamic republic to stop its nuclear drive.

The officials meeting in Washington Monday "reaffirmed their commitment to the dual track approach for responding to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program," Casey said.

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