Iran Nuclear NewsUS seeks Iran sanctions now, EU stress talks first

US seeks Iran sanctions now, EU stress talks first

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Reuters: The United States said on Wednesday Iran was “aggressively” pursuing atom bombs and should face sanctions now, but EU allies stressed it was not too late for talks on a negotiated solution to its disputed nuclear work. By Mark Heinrich

VIENNA, Sept 13 (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday Iran was “aggressively” pursuing atom bombs and should face sanctions now, but EU allies stressed it was not too late for talks on a negotiated solution to its disputed nuclear work.

The Western partners in a group of six powers dealing with Iran appeared to differ over the urgency of sanctions in their statements to the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board of governors.

And a minister from Washington’s staunchest ally, Britain, warned Tehran probably had the resources to endure sanctions.

A meeting between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani, set for Thursday, was postponed without reasons given. EU diplomats had said they would discuss a tentative offer by Larijani to consider temporarily halting enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel.

Solana’s spokeswoman said, however, that lower-level EU and Iranian officials would still meet in Paris.

Iran’s arch-enemy the United States, spearheading efforts to draw up punitive U.N. sanctions against Tehran over suspicions it is secretly trying to build atom bombs, has said it has no knowledge of any new Iranian offer.

Western leaders condemned Iran’s disregard of an Aug. 31 U.N. Security Council deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment programme, which Iran insists is meant only to make electricity.

The Islamic Republic refuses to suspend enrichment before negotiations on an offer by the major powers of trade incentives not to develop nuclear fuel.

Washington made clear to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran’s defiance should trigger steps to sanctions but the “EU3”, Britain, France and Germany, omitted mention of punitive action and called for last-ditch talks despite Tehran’s violation of the deadline.

“Given Iran’s history of deception, lack of transparency, provocative behaviour and disregard for its international obligations, we must take further steps to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions,” U.S. envoy Gregory Schulte told the 35-nation board in Vienna.

U.S. SAYS SANCTIONS NO BAR TO DIPLOMACY

“We are convinced that Iran is aggressively pursuing the technology, material and know-how to build nuclear weapons. The time has come for the (U.N.) Security Council to back international diplomacy with international sanctions,” he said.

“Sanctions will not signal an end to diplomacy. (But) Iran’s leaders must understand that their choices have consequences.”

Washington’s fellow veto-holders on the Security Council, China and Russia, France, Germany and other EU nations are wary of cornering the world’s fourth biggest oil exporter and want more time to find a diplomatic compromise.

“I can’t see a military way through this and I’m not sure that even there’s an easy way for the U.N. to impose sanctions,” Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells told his parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

The EU3 statement said that although Iran had not suspended enrichment activity by the deadline, “it is still not too late to do so. We continue to extend an open hand to Iran”.

The U.S., British, French, German, Russian and Chinese foreign ministers will meet on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week to discuss proceeding to sanctions if there has been no diplomatic breakthrough by then.

“We want to hear one very clear message coming back through the (Solana-Larijani) line of communications, and that is that Iran is suspending. If we don’t hear that, we are moving forward with the sanctions resolution,” Schulte told Reuters earlier.

Aliasghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, said he would address the board on Thursday and respond to the U.S. remarks.

A statement to the IAEA board by the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations, which includes Iran and has sympathised with it throughout the crisis, urged all parties to “avoid hasty decisions” and seriously explore ways of compromise.

Amid big-power divisions, Iran has pursued plans to expand its pilot enrichment operation and has hindered IAEA investigations into the nature of its programme.

(Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker in Vienna, Ingrid Melander and Mark John in Brussels and Louis Charbonneau in Berlin)

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