Wednesday 14 March 2007

Iran sanctions talks at UN entering last phase

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Major powers expect an embargo on weapons Iran can export and a call to nations to restrict loans to Tehran as part of a sanctions package against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment work.

No date for a vote has been set in the 15 nation U.N. Security Council and initial predictions for this weekend have slipped, China said on Wednesday.

"To my knowledge there are a number of members who have indicated their concerns about this draft," Beijing's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters.

Ambassadors from the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, the five permanent council members with veto power, as well as Germany, which holds the European Union presidency, have been negotiating since March 1.

The measure would penalize Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used in bombs or for peaceful ends. The sanctions would be suspended if Iran complied and returned to negotiations.

The text is expected to include expanded list of Iranian officials and companies associated with Iran's nuclear program, such as the state bank Sepah and firms owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. But Wang has said there was still a dispute over who would be on the list.

The proposals also include a mandatory arms embargo on conventional weapons Iran may export and a call to governments and international financial institutions to restrict voluntarily new loans to Iran.

A mandatory travel ban on Iranian officials is no longer in the text. Nor are restrictions on credits to firms doing business in Iran, the envoys said.

On Tuesday, Wang told reporters that "many of us, including China, are not sure about all those entities because the objective is to target the nuclear and (ballistic) missile activities."

"But now with so many names, we don't know whether they are linked to these activities or not," Wang said.

Frustrated at being handed a fait accompli, the 10 rotating members of the Security Council have asked that a draft resolution be distributed on Wednesday afternoon "whether it is agreed or not," according to South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the current council president.

"Now it is coming to a point where it marginalizes the rest of the members" if the big powers "continue to discuss this endlessly among themselves," Kumalo said.

The new resolution is a follow-up to one adopted by the council on December 23 that imposed trade sanctions on sensitive nuclear materials and technology and froze assets of key Iranian individuals, groups and businesses.

The United States and leading European countries suspect Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic program.

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