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Washington Says Effort to Strengthen Iran Sanctions Remains On Track


The Bush administration continues to press for strengthened U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, provoking a testy reaction from Tehran. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the United States remains eager to boost international pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear activities. He says Washington would have preferred to have a U.N. resolution drafted and voted on by now, but the United States is confident that a resolution will be forthcoming.

"We are still committed to a diplomatic solution that has many fronts," said Sean McCormack. "One of those fronts is working with the U.N., working through the Security Council and coming up with a new sanctions resolution."

McCormack expressed hope that progress on crafting a resolution will be made during next week's meeting of the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany that has been focusing on the Iranian nuclear stand-off. The U.S. says it will host a meeting of the P Five Plus One members on September 21 in Washington.

Reports from Berlin quote German officials as saying they want to allow ongoing diplomatic initiatives a chance to succeed before slapping Tehran with a third set of sanctions. But McCormack dismissed suggestions that Germany is less than fully committed to pursuing a stepped-up sanctions regime.

"In the recent meeting of the P-5 plus one [permanent Security Council members plus Germany] at the expert level, Germany once again reiterated the fact that it is fully supportive of a new U.N. resolution, with sanctions, and we are all on the same page in terms of substance as well as timing," he said.

The United States and much of the international community suspect that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is designed solely for peaceful energy uses, and says it has the right to develop such a capability.

Iran's sporadic and grudging cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and its refusal to halt uranium enrichment while negotiations over IAEA access to Iranian nuclear facilities go forward have heightened concerns over its intentions.

Iranian officials warn that new U.N. sanctions could, as they put it, "destroy" Iran's willingness to cooperate with the international nuclear watchdog group.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran wants to address international concerns over its nuclear activities but refuses to negotiate over its right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.

Earlier this month, Mr. Ahmadinejad said his country has put into operation more than 3,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, reaching a key goal in its nuclear program.

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