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Iran unlikely to meet UN nuclear demands: Straw

By Super

London, Apr 19: Britain does not expect Iran to comply with United Nations Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment by the end of April, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today.

Amid suspicions in the West that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons, Iran last week defied UN demands and declared it had enriched uranium to a level used in power stations. Iran says it only wants nuclear technology to produce electricity, not bombs.

The UN Security Council has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to report by April 28 on Iran's compliance with a council demand that it stop enriching uranium and answer the agency's questions on its nuclear programme.

''We are working on the basis that Iran will not meet the proposals from the Security Council on the 30-day deadline,'' Mr Straw told BBC Radio Four in an interview from Saudi Arabia.

His comments are consistent with a long-held view from Britain that Iran is showing no signs of complying.

Mr Straw said negotiating with Iran was unpredictable.

''But what is most likely to happen is that the matter will move back to the Security Council and there will then be discussions about the next steps which the international community will take,'' he added.

Mr Straw's comments followed a meeting in Moscow of senior officials from the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France -- the council's permanent members -- and Germany. No agreement emerged from the talks yesterday.

Mr Straw, echoing similar remarks by his Russian and French counterparts, said world powers would wait for the IAEA's report before considering future action.

The United States, which already enforces its own sweeping sanctions on Iran, wants the Security Council to be ready to take strong diplomatic action, including so-called targeted measures such as a freeze on assets and visa curbs.

Mr Straw again played down the likelihood of military action against Iran, even though US President George W Bush yesterday refused to rule out nuclear strikes if diplomacy fails to curb the Islamic Republic's atomic ambitions.

''I have always acknowledged that the United States government formally is in a different position from that of the European governments upon this theoretical issue about the use of force,'' said Mr Straw.

''But in practice both the Americans and the Europeans, and Russia and China are committed to finding a diplomatic solution to this issue".


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