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Top Diplomats Consider Response to Iran Nuclear Program

Senior diplomats from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany are meeting to plot strategy on Iran's controversial nuclear program. The Council could adopt its first statement on Iran as early as Tuesday.

Diplomats say the meetings are aimed at developing a long-term strategy for addressing Iran's nuclear ambitions. Top foreign affairs officials from the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany are attending.

The strategy sessions are being held as the Security Council is trying to agree on a shorter-term plan. Britain, France and the United States are hoping the Council will adopt a presidential statement Tuesday, urging Iran to clear up concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency about its nuclear program.

Early drafts of the statement suggested asking IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei to report on Iran's progress within two weeks.

Washington's U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, says the high-level New York meetings are aimed at overcoming Russian and Chinese objections to pressuring Iran to comply with IAEA directives. "I think that meeting will basically consider the longer-range issues," he said, "although, obviously, in the capitals, in Moscow and Beijing, certainly, they will now have a look at this text, and I hope that their foreign ministers will have instructions that will allow us to make progress. If we could have the president read this statement on Tuesday, I think that would be a good step forward."

China and Russia have repeatedly urged a slower pace for diplomacy on Iran. Chinese and Russian diplomats express concerns that tough action could prompt Tehran to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, Friday pointed to the proposed two-week time requirement for an I.A.E.A report on Iranian compliance as an example of what he called going "too fast". "We must leave sufficient time for diplomacy and for IAEA to work," he said. "At least four weeks to six weeks."

The United States and the so-called EU-three that had been negotiating with Iran see the non-binding Security Council statement as the first step in a gradual strategy that could eventually lead to targeted sanctions against Iranian leaders.

Washington suspects that Tehran is attempting to build nuclear weapons, but Iranian leaders deny the charge.

Iran's foreign minister, Monouchehr Mottaki, was quoted Saturday as saying Tehran would not accept any U.N. Security Council decision, unless what he called "Iran's nuclear rights" were taken into consideration.