News / Middle East

Six World Powers Discuss Iran Sanctions

Margaret Besheer

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany say they will continue to seek a negotiated solution to Iran's nuclear pursuits, but they are considering "further measures". The group, known as the P5+1 met at a senior level in New York Saturday.

The political directors from Britain, France, Russia, the United States and Germany, as well as a lower level diplomat from China, met at the European Union Mission in New York.

Diplomats said the meeting was a stocktaking session to see the way ahead on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Robert Cooper, who is the European Union's political director, spoke to reporters afterwards in his capacity as the chair of the meeting.

He said that Iran has failed to follow up on key understandings of the meeting held between the group and Iran in Geneva last fall and has also refused further meetings with the group. The six powers have additional concerns as well.  "First, the fact that Iran has been secretly building the enrichment facility near Qom, with no credible civilian purpose, without notifying the IAEA with due time, in accordance with its safeguard obligation, and in violation of Security Council resolution," he said.

He said the group is also concerned by Iran's "insufficient cooperation" with the IAEA and with its response to the IAEA board of governors' resolution in November. That resolution demanded Iran stop enriching uranium.  It also urged Iran to halt construction of the Qom facility and to confirm it has no other hidden nuclear activities.

Cooper said the P5+1's is also concerned with Iran's failure to take up a proposal from the IAEA to provide nuclear fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. 

That offer calls for Iran to send more than 70 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France.  The uranium would then be converted into fuel rods and returned to Iran for use in the medical research reactor.  "As a result, we concluded that Iran's response was inadequate. That they had failed to take the opportunity that our ministers set out in September. The group remains united and underlines its unity, and remains committed to the two-track approach. That implies that we will continue to seek a negotiated solution but consideration of appropriate further measures has also begun," he said.

Diplomats close to the talks said the six powers plan more meetings, but would not specify when.

The U.N. Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activities, which they believe are intended for military, not civilian purposes. Western powers are eager to impose more targeted measures, including on Iran's financial and insurance sectors, as well as on the powerful Revolutionary Guards.

But Russia and China have been more reluctant to go along with a new round of sanctions, although Russia has recently signaled its willingness to take a tougher stance with Iran.

Moscow's representative at Saturday's meeting, Sergei Ryabkov, signaled solidarity with the six powers saying - "we act in concert as a group" - but added, there is "still time for meaningful political engagement."

But when one western diplomat was asked if time is running out for Iran on the sanctions front, he replied, "you have drawn the right conclusion."

But it is still likely to take weeks, if not a couple of months, for the six powers to reach a consensus on a new U.N. resolution imposing further penalties on Iran.

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