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UN Opens Talks on Tougher Iran Sanctions

U.N. ambassadors from six major world powers are discussing new sanctions against Iran for defying a Security Council order to halt uranium enrichment. VOA's Peter Heinlein at the United Nations reports a new sanctions resolution will give Iran another 60 days to comply.

Envoys from the five permanent Security Council members and Germany met for 90 minutes Monday at the British mission to the U.N.

As he emerged from the session, China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya described the meeting as a preliminary step.

"[It was] the first round of exchange of views on the possible elements on the new draft resolution and we will continue discussion tomorrow afternoon," said Wang Guangya.

U.N. diplomats say the language of the resolution has not come into clear focus. But both Wang and Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin confirmed that the six had agreed to include a 60-day deadline in the resolution for Iranian compliance.

A previous resolution adopted by the Security Council in late December set a similar deadline for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. The Tehran government ignored that resolution, and instead ratcheted up its enrichment effort.

Negotiations leading up to the December resolution dragged on for months as negotiators labored to overcome Russian and Chinese objections to a European sponsored text. But Russia's Ambassador Churkin says there is a good chance the followup resolution could be adopted this month.

"I think generally the previous lengthy discussion was useful in that we know the philosophy of what we are doing," he said. "We are very mindful of the need to generate momentum for the starting of negotiations with Iran. In fact I think this time there will be visible a greater emphasis on the political side of what we are trying to do with Iran, to start negotiations and have a diplomatic outcome of the Iranian nuclear issues."

Western diplomats say negotiations this time should be smoother because the United States and European powers France, Britain and Germany are seeking small, incremental increases in sanctions.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the United States wants the deliberations conducted in the shortest time possible so the Iranian government will know it is isolated on this issue.

Political directors of the six countries held three round of talks over the past week on strengthening the sanctions. The proposed new penalties are said to include a travel ban on anyone involved in Iran's nuclear program, and an expansion of the list of technology and equipment that other countries are prohibited from supplying to Iran.

The United States and European allies suspect oil-rich Iran may intend to produce nuclear weapons. The Tehran government has repeatedly denied the charge, and says its nuclear program is intended solely to meet its energy needs.