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US sees Bushehr plant not a hurdle on Iran

Written by: Staff
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Bogota (Colombia), Oct 25: Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant should not prove a ''major stumbling block'' between Washington and European powers on a sanctions resolution against Tehran over its nuclear program, a top U S official said.

U S Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said he was confident of an accord even after diplomats said major European states circulated a draft resolution imposing nuclear and missile-related sanctions on Iran following their failure to reach agreement with Washington.

Diplomats say the allies have been split over some issues, including a U S demand that Russia should be forced to halt work at the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

''We have been partners with the Russians for 12 months in these negotiations, we don't see eye to eye on all issues, we sometimes have tactical differences. But I don't think that will be a major stumbling block,'' Burns told Reuters yesterday when asked about possible disagreements over Bushehr.

''We are satisfied we will be able to have at the end of the day, whenever that day is, it may take a little while, a good resolution that will hopefully convince the Iranians they made a serious miscalculation,'' he said during a visit to Bogota for talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Maintaining unity among Britain, France, Germany -- lead negotiators with Iran -- and the United States has been key to international efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear program. Western governments charge the program aims to develop nuclear arms, but Tehran says it is building a civilian energy source.

The five veto-holding U N Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany -- are involved in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. The major powers have been threatening sanctions since the end of August when Iran ignored a U N demand it suspend its uranium enrichment program.

'Comfortable'

Russia and China have been hesitant about sanctions, and U S and European officials fretted Moscow might stymie the resolution if there was no exemption for Bushehr, which is due to begin operation next year.

''We hope to convince Russia and China to climb onboard the Security Council resolution. We said we would do this. Russia and China agreed that if Iran turned down negotiations that there would be a sanctions resolution, so now we want to see that commitment fulfilled,'' Burns said.

He would not comment on how Washington envisaged the details of an eventual resolution allowing Russia to go ahead with the full construction and fueling of the plant.

Burns said Washington was ''comfortable'' with the idea of states providing Tehran with nuclear fuel and energy that stopped well short of providing Iranians with a fuel cycle that allowed them the technical capability to manufacture weapons.

The European-drafted resolution would ban most nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran, according to portions of a draft version read to Reuters. It would halt overseas financial transactions and travel by Iranians involved in the nuclear program, except for certain humanitarian-related trips.

The draft exempts ''construction'' of Bushehr and seems to allow Russians to continue working at the site in southwestern Iran, one European diplomat said yesterday.

The exemption does not extend to fuel deliveries, the diplomat said, meaning Russia would not be permitted to fuel the reactor, which it promised under contract to do in 2007.

Reuters

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