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Major powers seek to break Iran sanctions impasse

Written by: Staff
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PARIS, Dec 5 (Reuters) Senior officials from six international powers meet in Paris today hoping for progress towards ending a deadlock that has held up agreement over a sanctions resolution on Iran's nuclear programme.

Hours before they were to meet, Tehran struck a defiant note with nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani saying Iran would not bow to pressure to give up its ''inalienable right'' to nuclear technology.

Political directors from UN Security Council permanent members Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States, plus Germany will attend the latest round of talks, which have been stuck for months.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will also take part.

The West suspects Iran is using its civilian nuclear programme as cover to build an atomic bomb but Tehran says its work is peaceful.

Russia has refused to agree to tough sanctions that would be seen as a punishment of Tehran for its refusal to meet the August.

31 UN deadline to abandon uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or atom bombs.

Its opposition has set it at loggerheads with European countries and the United States, which has become increasingly impatient with Moscow's attitude.

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said deliberations among the major powers on what to do about Iran had been going on for far too long.

''It's time for Russia and it is time for China to agree a sanctions resolution. We need to send a strong message,'' he told reporters in Brussels at a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Moscow insists that Tehran's nuclear programme is not a proven threat to world peace, but Western countries disagree, citing Iran's 18-year concealment of nuclear enrichment technology that could be used to make fuel for atom bombs.

Diplomats say China, which like other permanent UN Security Council members can veto the council's resolutions, tends to follow Russia's lead on the Iran nuclear issue.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said after talking with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov yesterday that progress had been made on the wording of a sanctions resolution.

''I think that we can now reach an agreement on the text,'' he told reporters after meeting Lavrov on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting.

''We are in agreement with Russia to adopt sanctions against the Iranian programme of proliferation.'' EU diplomats say the sanctions called for in the text will be largely symbolic.

However, they say unanimous approval of even mild sanctions will send a strong signal to Tehran that the world is determined to stop Iran obtaining nuclear arms.

REUTERS SHB RK1210

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