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US wants sanctions on Iran to focus on finances: Rice

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AFP: A US push for sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program will likely focus on cutting Tehran’s access to international finances, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday. WASHINGTON, Sept 10, 2006 (AFP) – A US push for sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program will likely focus on cutting Tehran’s access to international finances, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday.

Rice said she was “quite, quite certain” that the major UN Security Council members, including Russia and China, will support the sanctions in light of Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment as called for under a UN resolution adopted in July.

She said the sanctions, due to be discussed this week at the United Nations, would not aim to halt Iran’s exports of oil, the mainstay of its economy.

“We believe that the key here is, perhaps, on the financial side,” she said on CNN television.

“There are things that you can do to cut off financing to Iran’s programs, to make clear to Iran that it will not be able to take advantage of the international financial system in the way it needs to to be able to use those proceeds from oil,” she said.

Asked about signs that some veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council — notably France, Russia and China — appeared reluctant to impose sanctions, Rice said: “There will be, I’m quite, quite certain, sanctions that demonstrate to Iran that it can’t continue on this course.”

She said the five permanent members plus Germany had developed a list of potential sanctions that would be imposed in a phased manner as long as Iran refuses to halt its enrichment of uranium, which Washington says is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

“I believe we’ll want to match those (sanctions) to Iranian activities and to Iranian behaviour at any point in time,” she said.

But Rice also left the door open for continuing talks with Iran in parallel with moves towards a new UN resolution imposing sanctions.

“It is true that people want to leave open the path of negotiations, that talks are continuing, but Iran also needs to understand, and I think will understand, that the world is prepared to act on the resolution that it passed just six weeks ago,” she said.

Earlier Sunday senior European Union and Iranian officials said they had made progress in last-ditch talks to avert UN sanctions.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said two days of talks in Vienna with top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani had been “productive”.

He said the discussions had “cleared up some of the misunderstanding that existed” over Iran’s response to a US-backed offer of incentives if Tehran heeded the Security Council call to freeze work on enrichment.

He said the talks would continue.

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