Iran General NewsUS to urge other world powers to act against...

US to urge other world powers to act against Iran

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Reuters: The United States will press other major world powers on Tuesday to consider what it called targeted sanctions against Iran as an April 30 U.N. deadline loomed for Tehran over its nuclear programme. By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The United States will press other major world powers on Tuesday to consider what it called targeted sanctions against Iran as an April 30 U.N. deadline loomed for Tehran over its nuclear programme.

World crude oil prices topped $70 a barrel on Monday, the highest level for nearly eight months, as Iran’s pursuit of its nuclear programme heightened market fears Washington might take military action against the oil-producing Islamic Republic.

But U.S. talk of laying the groundwork for possible force is widely expected to be dismissed when the U.N. Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — meet together with Germany.

Russia and China strongly oppose sanctions or the use of force. Apart from the United States, the others — including close U.S. ally Britain — oppose military action.

Iran said last week it had enriched uranium for use in its power stations, increasing tensions in a standoff with the West which suspects Tehran is trying to build an atomic bomb. Tehran says its nuclear programme is only for electricity generation.

The United States, which already has a broad range of sanctions on Iran, said it wanted the Security Council to be ready to take strong diplomatic action, including so-called targeted measures such as a freeze on assets and visa curbs.

“We’re kind of sanctioned out at this point. We’re down to pistachios and rugs,” U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington.

The United States says it is not looking at restrictions on Iran’s oil and gas sectors on grounds that it is does not want to create hardship for the Iranian people. Iran is the world’s fourth-biggest oil exporter.

APRIL 30 DEADLINE

The Security Council has told Iran to halt all sensitive atomic activities and on March 29 asked its nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, to report on Iranian compliance in 30 days.

McCormack told reporters he did not expect any major decisions to be taken at the Moscow meeting.

“We would expect when the Security Council next meets to take up the issue of Iran in the wake of the IAEA’s upcoming report on Iran that they be ready to take strong diplomatic action,” said McCormack.

Iran said on Monday it would not be bullied or threatened by the United States into stopping its uranium enrichment work but would cooperate with the IAEA.

So far despite three years of probing the IAEA says it cannot verify Iran’s nuclear programme is entirely peaceful but has found no hard proof of efforts to build atomic weapons.

A senior Iranian official criticised U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for saying last week the United Nations must consider strong action against Iran, such as a resolution that could lead to sanctions or lay the groundwork for force.

“I think the era of threats and bullying is over. … At any rate, such remarks will not bear fruit,” Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Larijani was quoted as saying by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

“We have always signified our willingness to allow IAEA inspectors to come to Iran and visit our nuclear sites.”

U.N. INSPECTIONS

IAEA officials said after the agency’s head, Mohamed ElBaradei, held talks in Tehran last week that senior U.N. inspectors would visit Iran this week.

The United States said a statement by Ahmadinejad last week that Iran was conducting research on a P-2 centrifuge, which can enrich uranium quickly, was cause for serious concern.

“Undisclosed work on P-2 centrifuges would be a further violation of Iran’s safeguard obligations, in addition to those that have already been identified by the (IAEA) board,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

“Such violations and failures by the regime to comply with its international obligations run contrary to the regime’s claims that its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes,” said McClellan.

Iran had previously said it was carrying out research and development into P-2 centrifuges, which are faster than the P-1 versions it uses to enrich uranium.

“The unclear status of P-2 work in Iran has been a running sore in IAEA investigations,” said a Vienna-based diplomat familiar with IAEA inquiries. He declined to be named.

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