US back new European resolution on Iran sanctions

(AFP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed optimism that the UN Security Council will finally impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program after the US and Russia closed ranks around a European draft resolution that was months in the making.

"It's a good resolution," Rice told AFP in an exclusive interview after a revised draft resolution was submitted to the full Security Council at UN headquarters in New York earlier Monday.

Rice said she was "optimistic" the resolution aimed at persuading Iran to suspend uranium enrichment would pass soon, though she stopped short of predicting a final vote before the end of the year, reports Trend.

"It has to be voted soon. I think this has gone on long enough," she said as negotiations over specific details of the resolution drawn up by Britain and France continued in New York.

The six major powers dealing with the issue -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- have been wrangling for months over the terms of the sanctions resolution.

The punitive measures were agreed in principle under an earlier Security Council resolution, which gave Iran until August 31 to suspend its enrichment of uranium, which can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants but also to provide the fissile material for atomic weapons.

But agreement proved elusive as Russia and China objected to an earlier European draft as too harsh, while Washington felt it did not go far enough.

Russia on Monday welcomed changes to the text, but still had reservations over a provision imposing travel bans on officials linked to Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.

"Clearly this draft does absorb the Russian philosophy of the direction and content of this resolution," Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters after a round of informal talks among ambassadors of six major powers.

Churkin hailed the sponsors' decision to drop all references in the draft to Iran's first nuclear power station, a one-billion-dollar facility which Russia is helping to build in Bushehr.

Rice said Monday that she was satisfied with the latest draft, notably because it will be voted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which makes the measures mandatory for all UN members.

"It establishes Chapter 7, which to my mind is the most important element here," she said.

"It would make very clear to the Iranians that they are not going to be able to pursue this program and remain integrated into the international system and I would hope would give them pause so they might consider coming back to negotiations," she said.

Rice has steadfastly rejected calls for Washington to break a 27-year ban on direct negotiations with Iran in order to deal with the nuclear issue or gain Tehran's help in resolving the crisis in neighboring Iraq.

But she reaffirmed on Monday her willingness to meet her Iranian counterpart "any place, any time, anywhere, about any subject" once Tehran suspends its enrichment program.

The revised European draft, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, would mandate a ban on trade with Iran on goods related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and impose financial and travel restrictions on persons and entities involved.

Despite Russian objections, it includes a list of a dozen Iranian officials directly involved in their country's nuclear and ballistic programs who would be targeted for UN sanctions.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is solely for the production of energy.

The West claims Iran is running a secret nuclear military program parallel to its civilian one.

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