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UN resolution on Iran eludes major powers

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    Washington, Oct 24: An agreement on UN measures to punish Iran over its nuclear program eludes major powers a week after Europeans began working on it, US officials and UN diplomats said today.

    US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said there was ''widespread agreement, although not total agreement,'' among the United States, France and Britain on a proposed resolution that would pressure Iran to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work.

    A need to address North Korea's announcement of a nuclear test on October 9, has contributed to the delay, McCormack said.

    But he noted there were ''strong feelings'' among major powers over the Iran issue.

    The United States wants initial sanctions to target Iranian activities related to its suspected weapons program, which Tehran denies. The three European negotiators, Britain, France and Germany, have agreed to a text but Washington has not yet signed on, UN Security Council diplomats said.

    Diplomats in Vienna, headquarters of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, said Iran had expanded its nuclear program by initiating a second batch centrifuges at a pilot nuclear fuel plant.

    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met the UN agency's head, Mohamed ElBaradei, but it was unclear whether the two discussed the reported expansion by Iran.

    McCormack said he did not expect a completed resolution this week, but the issue was likely to dominate the Security Council for the next several weeks.

    A draft text on Iran has not yet been distributed to Russia and China, both of which will study it before it goes to the full 15-member council, diplomats said.

    McCormack said the two countries had committed to supporting a sanctions resolution, but there had been few new discussions on the issue.

    France's UN Ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, had hoped for a text by the end of last week, while British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry predicted the council would get the a draft resolution early this week.

    McCormack declined to identify outstanding issues. ''There are strong feelings on this,'' he said. ''But there's an agreement that we're going to go down this pathway.''

    REUTERS

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