March 4, 2007 Reuters

Major powers fail to settle differences on Iran

By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major powers failed on Saturday to settle all their differences over a second U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran for its nuclear work but remain committed to passing one soon, the United States said.

"There is still some work to be done on a few outstanding issues, but all parties remain committed to a second resolution in the near future," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in a statement issued after the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany held a conference call to discuss a new U.N. Security Council resolution against Iran.


Members of the U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution authorising trade sanctions against Iran in New York, in this December 23, 2006 file photo. Major powers failed on Saturday to settle all their differences over a second U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran for its nuclear work but remain committed to passing one soon.
The United States and leading European countries suspect Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic program. Tehran denies the charge and says its program is for generating electricity.

The new measures under discussion are a follow-up to a key Security Council resolution passed on Dec. 23 that imposed trade sanctions on sensitive nuclear materials and technology as well as other penalties after Iran refused to suspend uranium enrichment. The sanctions would be suspended if Iran complied.

The State Department put a positive gloss on Saturday's discussions but they appeared to have fallen short of U.S. hopes that the group -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States as well as Germany -- would be able to agree on the elements of a resolution during the conference call.

'GOOD DISCUSSION'

They had a good discussion in keeping with the positive atmosphere of their conversations last week," Cooper said in a brief written statement. "Discussions will now move to New York, where our United Nations permanent representatives (ambassadors) will take up work on the issue."

U.S. and European diplomats have said the new sanctions are expected to include a mandatory travel ban on Iranian officials involved in the nuclear program and an expansion of the list of banned nuclear material and technology Iran may import and export.

Also under consideration is enlarging the list of Iranian officials whose assets were frozen in the December resolution. But envoys said proposals for a total arms embargo would be dropped because of Russian objections as would a ban on visas for students studying nuclear technology abroad.

Negotiators have also discussed restricting export credits provided by governments to companies doing business in Iran. Washington has pushed for Europe to end such credits.

The United States has made no secret of its desire to get a second resolution quickly to keep up momentum in its diplomatic effort to persuade Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment work, which can provide fuel for power plants or for bombs.

Iran has repeatedly refused to do so.

On Friday, the president of the U.N. Security Council said he expected the 15-member body to have a draft resolution in the coming week on additional sanctions to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, barring last minute snags.

South Africa's U.N. ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, who assumed the rotating council presidency, said major powers were trying to include all members in discussions -- unlike last year, when they talked only among themselves until shortly before the vote.

No date has been set for a vote and changes in the language are bound to drag out, but the prediction of a text being circulated in New York next week implied progress among the negotiators.

The U.S. statement made no mention of circulating a draft, saying only that talks would now move to New York.

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