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Iran Sanctions Negotiations Begin in New York

Ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany met in New York Thursday for the first round of negotiations on possible new sanctions against Iran for its suspect nuclear program.

The ambassadors met behind closed doors for nearly three hours at the British mission to the United Nations.

Emerging from the meeting, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that the group still hopes to find a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear issues.

"I don't think any of us wants to impose sanctions, what we want to have is a diplomatic solution," said Churkin. "And all sorts of constructive proposals have been made to Iran. So if, as you mention, Iran wants to negotiate, they should start negotiating."

Among the six, China, which has close trade ties with Iran, has been the most reluctant to impose new sanctions. Those steps could include targeted measures against members of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, as well as against Iran's insurance and shipping sectors. Instead, China has pushed for more diplomacy with Iran.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that sanctions and diplomacy are not mutually exclusive, and that sanctions can be an effective part of diplomatic negotiations.

After Thursday's meeting, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the negotiations among Britain, France, China, Russia, the United States and Germany would continue in New York.

"We had a worthwhile discussion, the P5+1, on the Iran nuclear issue," said Rice. "We look forward to continuing these discussions here in New York and in capitals in the days and weeks to come."

Earlier she said negotiations "are intensifying" now that they have moved to New York. She would not put a timetable on when a new sanctions resolution might come before the full Security Council for a vote, saying only that the group is working to get it done "swiftly." President Barack Obama said recently that he hopes to see a sanctions resolution "within weeks."

The P5+1 hope to hammer out a draft text of a sanctions resolution - this would be the fourth such resolution against Iran - that they agree on and then present it to the other 10 members of the Security Council. For it to be adopted, it would need nine votes of the 15 and no vetoes from the permanent members.

World powers believe Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge it denies. But Tehran has failed to allay concerns. It has not accepted confidence-building measures and other proposals from the international community and has not abided by Security Council resolutions demanding it cease enriching uranium.