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Planned European-Iranian Meeting Does Not Dissuade US from Seeking Sanctions

European and Iranian officials are to meet Saturday to discuss the simmering nuclear issue. The United States, however, plans to continue to push for sanctions against Iran. As VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports from London, there is still no agreement on what kind of sanctions.

European foreign policy chief Javier Solana is scheduled to meet with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani Saturday at an undisclosed location. Talks between the two had been in the cards for several days, but have been repeatedly postponed.

The talks are seen as a European attempt to salvage any negotiations on the nuclear issue, after Iran failed to meet a U.N. Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment by August 31.

Officials from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany met in Berlin Thursday to map out strategy on the Iranian nuclear issue.

The six nations, with the United States in the lead, believe Iran is embarked on a path to nuclear weapons. Iran has repeatedly denied the allegation, and says it only seeks peaceful nuclear energy, which it is entitled to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

During an official visit to Cairo Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett expressed frustration at the failure to get negotiations with Iran moving again.

"We believe that there is a solution to these problems, which can be acceptable and welcome to the whole international community and could be carried out through peaceful negotiations," she said. "But it can't be carried out through peaceful negotiations, if people won't negotiate."

But before the United States will negotiate with Iran, officials want Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Since Iran has refused, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns says the United States will push for sanctions in the Security Council.

"It is the view of the United States, that, as Iran is not in compliance, that Iran has been given three months to suspend its nuclear program, but hasn't done so, that we must now go to the United Nations, and pass a sanctions resolution," he said.

Burns told a Berlin research institute on Friday that the United States wants to settle down to drafting a sanctions resolution next week.

There is no consensus, however, on the kind of sanctions, or how strong they should be. Russia and China, in particular, have business interests in Iran and are reluctant to impose any significant punishment. France appears to be wavering on any rush to sanctions.

Nicholas Burns acknowledged that the question of sanctions is a "complex issue" and that time is needed to reach agreement.

Many analysts believe Iran is trying to exploit rifts in the international community to keep its nuclear enrichment program going as long as possible.