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Big-Power Diplomats Discuss New Iran Sanctions


Senior diplomats of the five veto-wielding U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany held a telephone conference Tuesday on terms of a new sanctions resolution against Iran over its nuclear program. U.S. officials say no agreement was reached but the parties are expected to confer again in a few days. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

State Department officials say the U.S. intelligence report that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 has not derailed efforts for a new sanctions resolution, and that one is likely to be ready for action in the Security Council in a matter of weeks.

U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and his political-director colleagues from the so-called P5+1 grouping discussed a possible third sanctions resolution Tuesday in a 90-minute telephone conference call.

Permanent Security Council members Russia and China have reportedly become skeptical about the need for new sanctions in the wake of the release of the U.S. national intelligence estimate early last week.

But U.S. officials say the major powers remain wary of Iran's intentions given its continued resistance to fully disclosing its nuclear activities.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the six powers did not reach an agreement in the conference call, but that it is notable that the discussion focused on terms of a new resolution and not on whether there should be one.

"They're continuing to work through the elements of a resolution. It was a good, constructive phone call. We're not there yet. But our hope, as you heard from Secretary Rice, is that in the coming weeks, that we could have a resolution that is voted on in the Security Council." he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a foreign policy group in Washington Monday a new resolution is appropriate because Iran continues uranium enrichment activities at its Natanz nuclear facility, and that if it perfects the process it can make nuclear explosives.

The Secretary reaffirmed a two-track strategy providing sanctions if Iran fails to heed international demands to halt enrichment, but also diplomatic benefits if it complies including open-ended political talks between Rice and her Iranian counterpart.

Spokesman McCormack said he expects another conference call by the political directors in the next few days. But he down-played the prospect of a ministerial-level meeting of the P5+1 on the sidelines of a donor conference for the Palestinians early next week in Paris.

McCormack would not discuss terms of a new resolution. The Washington Post said Tuesday said the draft under consideration would urge U.N. member countries not to sell or transfer weapons to Iran.

The newspaper also said it would call for a travel ban on Iranian individuals and entities believed engaged in proliferation activities, including the elite Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The United States unilaterally imposed sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Iranian Defense Ministry and three major Iranian banks in October because of that country's nuclear activities and support for terrorism.

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