World Powers to Discuss Sanctions Against Iran Over Nuclear Issue

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006

BAGHDAD, Oct. 5 -- Months of intense negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program have failed and the United States and its diplomatic partners will meet in London on Friday to discuss which punitive actions to include in a new U.N. resolution, U.S. and European officials said Thursday.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack announced in Baghdad that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and counterparts from Britain, France, Russia and China -- the four other permanent members of U.N. Security Council -- plus Germany will hold talks.

The United States wants to impose sanctions on Iran, but divisions are still deep among the six countries over whether to go that far and, if so, in what form. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that his country does not back sanctions as a means to punish the Islamic republic for failing to comply with a U.N. resolution that requires it to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran maintains that the fuel program is part of a peaceful nuclear energy program, but U.S. officials and others worry that it could be subverted for making weapons.

"I believe that until diplomatic means are exhausted, sanctions would be too radical," Lavrov said at a news conference in Warsaw. "We have to do everything to persuade Iran to begin negotiations. . . . The issue needs to be resolved diplomatically."

European Union foreign affairs chief Javier Solana, who has taken the lead in recent last-ditch talks with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, also said talks should not be closed off. "Even if we fail now, we should maintain the doors open to continue dialogue with Iran," he said Thursday in Rome.

China also has been reluctant to impose tough sanctions, while France has not been as adamant as the United States and Britain. "We've done the Solana effort and now we'll have to move to sanctions. That's the ministers' role," Rice said en route to Baghdad on Thursday.

The first stage of sanctions could include a travel ban on Iranian officials involved in the nuclear program and a ban on selling Iran so-called dual-use equipment that can be adopted for weapons. Tougher actions could follow if Iran continues to balk.

At the United Nations, Britain's ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, said the Security Council is likely to discuss specific language for a resolution on Iran next week that would include nonmilitary sanctions under Chapter 7, Article 41 of the U.N. Charter.

U.S. officials remain optimistic that they can win agreement -- in large part because of Iran itself. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeated several times in recent weeks, including during a trip to the United Nations last month, that Iran would not give up its enrichment program because it is operating within the rules of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

During a visit to Spain, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that Iran is "gaining time" and that the time had come "to look at the consequences of Iran's attitude." But Douste-Blazy also said the route to dialogue would remain open if Tehran suspends its nuclear program.

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