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UN Council powers still at odds on Iran crisis

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 15 (Reuters) The five veto-holding UN Security Council powers faced another struggle today to come up with a text aimed at reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions without threatening sanctions or other punitive measures.

Russia and China are resisting a proposal from the United States, Britain and France for a council statement that would express ''serious concern'' about Iran's nuclear program and urge it to abide by resolutions from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.

France and Britain, in an informal meeting of all 15 council members yesterday, distributed ''elements'' for a statement that would call on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment efforts, which the West believes are a cover for bomb making.

The decision to involve the full council followed several days of inconclusive talks among the permanent five members.

The permanent members meet for the fifth time today.

The full council resumes discussions on tomorrow and on Friday, US Ambassador John Bolton said.

One point of contention is a provision requesting Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director general, to report back to the Security Council in a short period of time on Iranian compliance.

Britain had proposed a report in 14 days but that time frame was seen as a negotiating point and would probably be lengthened.

Russia and China, wary of involvement by the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions, wants ElBaradei's report to go to the 35-nation IAEA board.

China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters he preferred a simple statement that would leave sufficient room for diplomatic efforts. ''We have some difficulty with the elements,'' Wang said. FULL AND SUSTAINED SUSPENSION The draft also calls on Iran ''to re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development'' that the IAEA would verify.

It asks Iran to reconsider building a heavy-water nuclear reactor in Arak, which is more prone to producing fuel for nuclear weapons than its light-water reactor equivalent.

Greece's UN ambassador, Adamantios Vassilakis, said he saw no problem with the proposals as they were similar to those adopted by the IAEA governing board.

''Most of the elements are from the text of the resolution adopted by the governing board, which we already voted for,'' Vassilakis said after yesterday's discussions.

A council statement needs to be approved by all 15 members, while a resolution requires nine votes in favor and no veto from any of the permanent members. The West could try to force Russia and China into a veto if the impasse continue.

''Whether it is a statement or a resolution we haven't decided,'' Bolton said earlier.

''We're trying to hold the permanent five together first but reality is reality and time is an important factor, given that the Iranians continue to progress toward overcoming their technological difficulties in enriching uranium,'' he said.

In addition to the five permanent council members, the other 10 nations, which rotate for two-year terms, are: Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Japan, Tanzania, Congo Republic, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and the Slovak Republic.


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