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Iran may face sanctions after two UN warnings

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Apr 6 (Reuters) The UN Security Council could give Iran only two chances to curb its nuclear programs before imposing sanctions, the US ambassador to the UN said today, while acknowledging winning support for that strategy would be difficult.

The United States has labored to overcome resistance from two council veto holders, China and Russia, for action against Iran but it still hopes to increase pressure over what it believes is Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear bomb.

''This is a calibrated, gradual, reversible approach,'' Ambassador John Bolton, a US hard-liner against Iran, told reporters at a news conference.

If Iran defies a UN statement, which has urged it to suspend its uranium enrichment activities by the end of this month, then the council likely would issue a stiffer warning demanding such compliance, Bolton said.

''Then we will consider the next step, which may well be a Chapter 7 resolution that imposes sanctions of some kind,'' Bolton told reporters, referring to a UN measure that is legally binding under international law.

Iran, whose officials had no immediate comment on Bolton's strategy, denies it is building a nuclear weapon and says its programs are to generate electricity to meet the energy demands of its growing population.

The United States, with Bolton often in the lead, had for years sought to refer Iran's nuclear case to the Security Council. Since achieving that earlier this year, Washington has found it slow-going.

OUTSIDE TACTICS With the United States facing resistance at the council, Bolton reiterated Washington was considering tactics outside the UN body to apply pressure.

Senior US officials have said they could form a coalition of nations that back the United States and are willing to impose their own sanctions on Iran.

A sign of the challenge the United States faces in persuading Security Council nations for action against Iran was the fact that it took weeks of haggling to agree on a statement from the president of the body urging Iran's compliance, Bolton said.

''It tells us something about the difficulty of the road ahead,'' he said.

Russia and China have strong trade links with Iran but some diplomats say one underlying motive for resisting the United States is to stave off the potential for military action if America pushes OPEC member Iran into a confrontation over its nuclear work.

The United States pressed for U.N. action against Iraq over its weapons programs before invading the country in 2003.

The United States says it is focused on forging a diplomatic solution to the Iran impasse but refuses to rule out an attack to deal with what it says is one of the biggest threats to Middle East stability.

The nuclear standoff has added to anxiety over crude supply in oil markets, where world prices remain stubbornly high.


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