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. Russia rejects new measures against Iran
MOSCOW, Sept 20 (AFP) Sep 20, 2008
Russia said Saturday it had rejected US proposals for new UN Security Council measures against Iran over its suspect nuclear programme amid deteriorating ties between Moscow and Washington.

At a meeting Friday with diplomats from the United States, China, Britain, France and Germany, Russia "said it was against the development at this stage of additional measures in the UN Security Council," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The Russian side underlined the necessity of continuing efforts to restore constructive dialogue with Tehran with the aim of moving forward the negotiation process," the statement said after the meeting in Washington.

The White House on Monday warned Iran that it faced possible new sanctions over its failure to stop uranium enrichment, which can be a key step towards making nuclear weapons.

But it said poor relations with Russia -- a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council -- could complicate matters.

Ties between the two have been severely damaged in recent weeks by Washington's sharp criticism of Russia's incursion into neighbouring Georgia, a close US ally.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the West must choose between support of Georgia and Moscow's cooperation on other international issues.

France has echoed the US call for sanctions, but China said such a move would not resolve the stalemate. On Friday, Germany said it still aimed to reach a negotiated settlement with Tehran.

After Friday's meeting, the US State Department had said all six powers were "committed to exploring possible further" sanctions.

The foreign affairs political directors of the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany met to help prepare for a meeting next week of their respective foreign ministers.

The six powers are attempting to convince Iran to halt sensitive nuclear work with an incentives package in exchange for full suspension of uranium enrichment.

"All participants of the meeting expressed their support for the actions of the IAEA and underlined the need for Iran's full and transparent cooperation with the agency," the Russian statement said.

The IAEA, the UN's atomic watchdog, on Monday said Iran had failed to freeze uranium enrichment activities as instructed by the United Nations.

In its restricted report, the IAEA complained it was making little headway in investigating allegations that Tehran had, in the past, been involved in studies to make a nuclear warhead.

The agency "regrettably has not been able to make any substantive progress on the alleged studies and other associated key remaining issues which remain of serious concern," said the report.

Three sets of UN sanctions have now been slapped on Iran, for defying Security Council resolutions to stop enrichment

Diplomats in Vienna said Saturday that the IAEA last week showed its members documents and photographs suggesting that Iran secretly tried to modify its long-range Shahab-3 missile to carry a nuclear bomb.

The US envoy to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, said IAEA officials "told us the information they have is ... 'very credible' and they have asked Iran to provide 'substantive responses'."

Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the evidence was forged and complained Tehran was being pressured to disprove the allegations by revealing information vital to its national security.

Meanwhile in Russia's southern resort of Sochi Saturday French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said that Europe and Russia were equally dependent on each other.

There was no alternative to strong relations between Paris and Moscow, he said after talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

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