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France, UK hope for vote next week on Iran N demand

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    United Nations, May 7 : France and Britain, the authors of a draft U N Security Council resolution ordering Iran to end its nuclear programme, said after more council talks that they hoped for a vote next week.

    But the two European Union powers and the United States, which supports the Franco-British draft, acknowledged they made no headway during Yesterday's discussions in resolving differences over the resolution's core provisions.

    Many of the council's 15 members left Yesterday's discussions acknowledging it would take a miracle to agree on a text before tomorrow's arrival in New York of foreign ministers of the council's five permanent members plus Germany.

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had invited the ministers from Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany to discuss long-term strategy for dealing with Iran at a dinner at a hotel near U N headquarters. Her hope had been that the council would adopt a resolution before their arrival.

    But the council has bogged down over provisions citing Iran as ''a threat to international peace and security'' and invoking Chapter 7 of the U N Charter, making the resolutions binding under international law.

    China and Russia, both of whom have veto power in the council, have insisted both provisions be removed.

    France, Britain and the United States, however, have insisted they form the core of the resolution and have so far resisted any changes in them.

    Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the text by telephone yesterday, in a conversation Moscow said was aimed at seeking ''a diplomatic solution'' to the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

    A State Department spokeswoman confirmed the conversation, but gave no details.

    Last week, the United States voiced growing frustration about Russia's ties with Iran, saying Moscow needed to stop planned arms sales to Tehran and take a tougher line on the Islamic Republic's nuclear plans.

    Controversy over core issues

    With no deal in sight among council members, it was now likely the Foreign Ministers would take a new look at the controversy over their dinner tomorrow. The 15-nation council spent most of the Saturday session going over the less contentious parts of the draft resolution, skipping over the core elements.

    ''I think it is realistic to consider this for a vote next week,'' U S Ambassador John Bolton told reporters after the closed-door talks, which took place at the British Mission to the United Nations.

    ''The controversy is over the core issues, which have not been decided,'' Bolton said. ''Obviously it would be decided quickly if we were able to achieve the objective of a vote next week, which we think is achievable.'' French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, echoing Bolton's remarks, told reporters: ''We won't be voting by Monday, but I hope during the week.'' Several council members said they expected France and Britain to circulate a new revised draft within the next few days, offering compromises. But French and British diplomats said their plans were still up in the air.

    Iran insists its nuclear program aims only to produce electricity. But France, Britain and the United States say there are ample grounds to suspect it is a weapons program.

    The resolution, introduced on Wednesday, would compel Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities. It does not call for any other action if Iran does not comply, but the United States has made clear that sanctions would be the next step.

    Both Russia and China fear too much pressure on Iran would be self-defeating or precipitate an oil crisis. Both worry the United States would use a Chapter 7 resolution to justify military action.

    But while Chapter 7 opens the door to possible sanctions or even war, a separate resolution would be required to specify either step.

    Bolton has invited both Moscow and Beijing to suggest alternatives to Chapter 7 that would make the resolution legally binding on Iran, so far without response.

    REUTERS

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