Iran Nuclear NewsResistance to Iran sanctions grows as powers meet

Resistance to Iran sanctions grows as powers meet

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Reuters:The United States faced growing opposition on Thursday to its bid to persuade other powers to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, with China urging dialogue and France signaling flexibility. By Louis Charbonneau

BERLIN (Reuters) – The United States faced growing opposition on Thursday to its bid to persuade other powers to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, with China urging dialogue and France signaling flexibility.

Top diplomats from six major powers met in Berlin to discuss next steps after Iran ignored last month’s U.N. Security Council deadline to stop nuclear enrichment work, but there was little sign the participants were close to agreeing a strategy.

China and Russia are reluctant to impose sanctions and question Western accusations that Iran poses a nuclear threat.

The Islamic Republic denies it is trying to develop the capability to produce atomic weapons. As the world’s fourth biggest oil exporter, Iran insists it needs nuclear fuel only to peacefully generate electricity.

Chinese officials stressed the diplomatic options.

“China advocates this issue be resolved through negotiation and dialogue in a peaceful way and this position remains unchanged,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

France also indicated it was not yet time for sanctions by suggesting world powers may be flexible over a previous demand that Iran suspend its enrichment work before starting talks.

Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the timing of any suspension was crucial and that it could be discussed.

“It’s a major question .. which will perhaps emerge as important in the weeks ahead,” he told reporters.

Both comments highlighted the underlying differences as diplomats from Germany and the five permanent Security Council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – met in the German capital.

LACKING SUPPORT

Washington wants to convince Russia and China to raise the pressure on the Islamic Republic by asking the U.N. Security Council to consider sanctions, diplomats from several countries to participate in the talks told Reuters.

Some, however, expressed doubt that Washington would succeed given opposition in European capitals, Moscow and Beijing.

“There is no way the U.S. is going to walk away with an agreement to impose sanctions on Iran,” said an EU diplomat from a country participating in the talks.

Iran insists it has a right to peaceful nuclear technology.

“The Americans must realize the language of threats does not work. A nuclear state that used nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot demand other countries not use nuclear power for peaceful purposes,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Although Britain, France and Germany had led diplomatic efforts on behalf of the European Union, all 25 members’ views now had to be taken into account, the EU diplomat said.

“There is really no appetite for sanctions in the broader EU,” said the diplomat. “Not everybody is convinced that sanctions would even work,” noting the experience with Iraq.

Russia and China probably want to wait for the result of talks on Saturday between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani before discussing sanctions, said diplomats.

The aim was to find out if Iran might halt enrichment work and begin talks on an offer of economic and political incentives the six powers made to Iran in June, said European diplomats.

Tehran has said it is willing to discuss the offer but not on the condition that it suspend its nuclear fuel program.

A senior diplomat close to U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna who is familiar with the Iranian position, said Tehran, while open to a suspension, had to save face.

“If they were seen domestically as kneeling down before the West, parliament would (bring down) the government. To stop enriching they need assurances of dividends up front and they include no removal of ‘inalienable’ rights, guarantee of no Security Council action and no U.S. attack,” said the diplomat.

(Additional reporting by Reuters bureaux)

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