Iran Nuclear NewsWorld powers mulling fresh Iran sanctions: US, Britain

World powers mulling fresh Iran sanctions: US, Britain

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ImageAFP: Six world powers grappling with Iran's over its suspect nuclear drive agreed Wednesday they have "no choice" but to prepare new UN sanctions against Tehran, the United States and Britain said.

ImageWASHINGTON (AFP) — Six world powers grappling with Iran's over its suspect nuclear drive agreed Wednesday they have "no choice" but to prepare new UN sanctions against Tehran, the United States and Britain said.

Washington said such a step enjoyed support from Moscow and Beijing — which have resisted taking a harder line on the Islamic republic — but China remained mum and Russia's UN ambassador said he was unaware of such agreement.

"We certainly do not believe that it is a foregone conclusion that it (the dialogue) is not going to be successful," Vitaly Churkin also told reporters. "We think there is some potential to that dialogue."

Churkin said that the Group of Eight wealthy industrialized countries, including some of Iran's top trading partners, would discuss the issue of whether to seek further sanctions at a ministerial meeting next month.

He spoke after top diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, joined by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, held a conference call to discuss the stand-off after Iran gave an inconclusive reply to demands it freeze sensitive nuclear work.

The powers "have agreed that, while informal contacts between Mr Solana and Mr (Iranian negotiator Saeed) Jalili will continue, we now have no choice but to pursue further sanctions against Iran, as part of our dual-track strategy," British junior foreign minister Kim Howells said in a statement.

Iran's reply to the group's package of economic and diplomatic incentives in return for halting uranium enrichment "appears to be a stalling tactic," US State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters.

The group reaffirmed "our commitment to the dual-track strategy and have agreed that we have no choice but to pursue further measures against Iran as part of this strategy," said Gallegos.

France's foreign ministry warned that Tehran had "made the choice to expose itself to new sanctions" with its response, while a French diplomat said the six powers were "all on the same wavelength."

Germany warned that Iran's reply was "insufficient" and urged a negotiated solution to the dispute.

"But if Iran does not choose this path, the UN Security Council will be referred to once again," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, a veiled reference to what would be a fourth round of UN sanctions.

In Washington, Gallegos said the five permanent Security Council (UNSC) members plus Germany were "very disappointed that Iran has failed yet again to give us a clear answer to the P5+1 generous package."

"Given the absence of a clear positive response from Iran and its failure to meet the deadline set by the UNSCR 1803, the P5+1 are discussing the next steps in the UNSC and beginning to consider the possible outlines of another sanction resolution," Gallegos read to reporters from a written statement.

Still, "the door for acceptance remains open," he said.

The United States and its partners fear that the program may mask an effort to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charges, and Washington's push for a harder line has met with resistance from Moscow and Beijing.

Asked about Iran's response to the incentives package, Churkin replied: "We would have preferred a clear yes. But it is more complicated than that… We do believe that dialogue can continue."

The Security Council has already ordered three rounds of sanctions against Iran. The United States says Iran is a weapons proliferation threat, while Iran insists that its nuclear research is for peaceful purposes.

Iran's latest letter to the international powers, delivered Tuesday, says only that "they are not prepared to move any further," according to another European diplomatic source in Brussels.

The letter said Tehran was ready to give a "clear response" to the international offer but demanded a "'clear response' to our questions and ambiguities".

Along with the threat of further sanctions, Washington has warned that the option of military action remains open.

Amid the continued tensions, Iran said on Monday it had successfully test-fired an anti-ship missile with a range of 300 kilometers (180 miles) that would allow it to close the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman.

And adding to signs of new diplomatic pressure, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the main UN nuclear watchdog, said its deputy director general, Olli Heinonen, would visit Tehran on Thursday for talks on the nuclear dispute.

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