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Russia, China Slow UN Diplomacy on Iran


Russia and China have rebuffed a U.S., French and British attempt to quicken the pace of Security Council diplomacy on Iran's nuclear program. The U.N. reports the first formal Security Council meeting on Iran yielded hope, but little progress.

Britain and France Friday presented the Security Council with a revised draft of a statement on Iran's controversial nuclear activities. The French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he was encouraged by the response. "The idea of having the council delivering a strong message to Iran is an idea that is very well accepted in the Council," he said.

The text is identical in most respects to an earlier draft circulated last week during informal consultations. It urges Iran to halt nuclear enrichment, and asks International Atomic Energy Chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the Council on Iran's compliance in as little as 14 days.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry indicated that adoption of the statement could come as early as next week. "The response we got from colleagues is that we're pretty close to where they want us to be," he said.

That optimism, however, was countered by objections from two veto-wielding Council members, Russia and China. Friday's Security Council consultation were adjourned until next Tuesday after Russian and Chinese diplomats requested more time to seek guidance from their goverments.

Sponsors say the delay pushes back until at least the middle of next week, and maybe later, the earliest date the Council could take its first formal step, adopting what is known as a PRST, or a Presidential Statement.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said Beijing has two primary concerns. "Number one is that we need to send a message through this PRST that the Security Council is supporting and reinforcing the role of the IAEA. Not to replace or take it over from the IAEA. Number two is that we must leave sufficient time for diplomacy and for IAEA to work. At least four weeks to six weeks," he said.

Russia's Ambassador Andrey Denisov echoed the same concerns. He told reporters, "the crux of the idea is that the leading agency must be the IAEA".

Nevertheless, Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton expressed confidence Friday that agreement on a text is close. He told reporters the United States could live with Chinese and Russian demands for more time. "There's not much support going for beyond a month. Our preference would be 14 days. That's what the original text said. In the interest of reaching quick agreement, I think there's some flexibility on our side," he said.

Bolton described Friday's consultations as good, but suggested he is losing patience with the slow pace of consultations. The U.S. envoy pointed to what he called "the urgency of sending a clear and strong signal" to Tehran at a time when Iranian centrifuges are spinning with uranium hexafluoride in them. Bolton said "this is a very serious matter".

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