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Sat 27 Sep 2008 09:58 AM

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UN turns up heat on Iran with new draft resolution

Draft calls on Iran to 'fully comply, without delay' and meet requirements of IAEA.

Six major powers papered over differences on Iran Friday and circulated a new Security Council draft resolution that reaffirms existing UN sanctions over Tehran's nuclear programme.

The terse, three-paragraph text also called on Iran "to fully comply, without delay, with its obligations [under relevant UN resolutions] and to meet the requirement of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) board of governors".

The draft was circulated after foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany agreed on its wording earlier in the day.

The UN Security Council has slapped three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which can be used to make the fissile material for a nuclear bomb.

The United States and its European allies have pushed for new sanctions against Tehran but have run into resistance from Russia and China.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin Friday again dismissed talk of new sanctions, saying "more discussions are necessary" with Tehran and "there's still room for diplomacy".

Diplomats said after their meeting on Iran that the new draft would not be voted upon until next week.

"We are very hopeful that there will be unanimity" on the text, said his French counterpart Jean-Maurice Ripert.

He warned that Tehran faces "more isolation" if it fails to comply.

The six powers have been trying to convince Iran to abandon uranium enrichment amid Western fears that Tehran is seeking to build an atomic bomb.

Friday's meeting gained new urgency after the UN nuclear watchdog reported last week that Tehran continued to defy international pressure to cooperate with its investigation. Iran insists its nuclear programme is strictly aimed at producing civilian energy.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the six countries' agreement on the text as "an important sign of unity on Iran" and noted the draft did not rule out future sanctions.

"The position of the international community remains that we want to say firstly, that we are ready to cooperate with Iran but secondly, only if Iran fulfills its commitments to the international community," he told reporters.

The ministers had initially planned to gather here Thursday to weigh new sanctions against Tehran.

But that meeting was called off after Moscow complained Washington sought to "punish" it, apparently over Georgia.

Moscow also cited US refusal to hold meetings this week of the Group of Eight industrial countries, composed of the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Italy and Germany.

"We do not see any fire that requires us to toss everything aside and meet to discuss Iran's nuclear programme in the middle of a packed week at the United Nations General Assembly," the Russian foreign ministry said in a frosty statement.

The war with Georgia, a US ally, led to the worst chill in relations between Moscow and Washington since the Cold War and prompted US officials to say Russia could face isolation.

But the United States and Russia later appeared to climb down from the dispute, agreeing here to hold further ministerial-level meetings in the future on Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

On why Moscow now agreed on this latest Iran draft, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this was so that "no one will have any doubt that the six maintain their unity with respect to the very primary goal that unites us: to help the IAEA ascertain that there is no military aspect to the nuclear program in Iran".

In his address to the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to pursue nuclear technology in the face of Western threats.

Iran "will resist the bullying and has defended and will continue to defend its rights", he said.

In a clear reference to Washington and its allies, the Iranian leader said: "They oppose other nations' progress and tend to monopolise technologies and to use those monopolies in order to impose their will on other nations."

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