Iran Nuclear NewsNuclear powers aiming to put fresh pressure on Iran

Nuclear powers aiming to put fresh pressure on Iran

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Reuters: The five major nuclear powers are working on a joint warning statement that aims to show unusual unified resolve and put fresh pressure on Iran not to resume nuclear fuel research, U.S. officials and diplomats said on Friday. By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The five major nuclear powers are working on a joint warning statement that aims to show unusual unified resolve and put fresh pressure on Iran not to resume nuclear fuel research, U.S. officials and diplomats said on Friday.

Iran, making a confrontation increasingly likely, has defied the international community with its threat to resume on January 9 atomic fuel research and development that was shelved over a year ago at the West’s insistence.

In an effort to bring new pressure in the hours before Tehran takes what could be a fateful step, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China were working on a statement opposing the Iranian move and urging that Tehran return to negotiations on a compromise proposal, officials and diplomats told Reuters.

Although the statement, known as a demarche, is not expected to contain specific threats, such as bringing Iran to the U.N. Security Council where sanctions could be imposed, officials said it could have significant political impact.

“It’s another ratchet upward in terms of diplomatic pressure” because it is the first coordinated initiative on Iran by the five nuclear weapon states and would “show unity and cohesion among the P5, which has not always been there,” said one U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the diplomacy was still in play.

P5 refers to the fact that the five nuclear powers are also the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

The goal was to issue the statement in the next 24 hours, but there were still some debate, officials said.

A senior U.S. official said China was resisting joint action and wanted each of the five nuclear powers to issue separate statements on Iran.

But a diplomat was optimistic problems could be overcome, saying: “There is a sense that it will not necessarily be the toughest demarche but there is a consensus.”

Russia, which is building Iran’s nuclear plant at Bushehr, and China have been the most reluctant to conclude that Iran’s nuclear activities are a serious concern and to join the United States and the European Union 3 — Britain, France and Germany — in demanding a halt.

IRAN DENIES ACCUSATIONS

Iran says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity and denies Western accusations it is seeking nuclear weapons.

Years of International Atomic Energy Agency inquiries have unearthed no clear proof of weapons activity, but Iran has acknowledged pursuing covert energy-related nuclear programs for 18 years.

In September, the IAEA board found Iran in non-compliance with its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The EU 3, with U.S. backing, have tried to resolve the conflict diplomatically.

Moscow tried to sweeten the deal by proposing a joint venture with Iran to enrich uranium in Russia but Iranian officials described the proposal as unacceptable.

Russian and Iranian officials are to meet in Tehran this weekend and diplomats say the talks could have a major impact on whether Moscow backs stronger future diplomatic action on Iran, such as U.N. Security Council referral.

Russia for the first time is chairman of the Group of Eight major industrialized countries, so it is under a spotlight to demonstrate leadership abilities.

For two years, Washington has threatened to elevate Iran’s case to the Security Council but delayed forcing a showdown as other strategies were tried, or support from countries like Russia was lacking.

U.S. officials insist U.N. referral looks increasingly likely, although the timing is vague, and some experts say they hear serious talk of the IAEA board trying to effect an end to any nuclear cooperation with Iran.

(Additional reporting by Sue Pleming)

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