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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Iran sanctions decision delayed
Uranium enrichment facility at Isfahan (2005)
Iran has denied its nuclear work is intended to develop weapons
The world's major powers will delay until November a decision on whether to impose tougher sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

The five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany said they would wait until they saw reports from the UN and EU before drafting a resolution.

Tehran denies Western accusations that it is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

On Tuesday, Iran's president said the sanctions were "illegal" in a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the debate over his country's nuclear programme was "closed" and that the issue was now in the hands of the UN's nuclear watchdog.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently reached agreement with Tehran on a "work plan" to resolve outstanding questions about its nuclear activities.

'Compromise'

In the joint statement issued after meeting in New York, the representatives of the six countries - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany - welcomed the IAEA's agreement with Iran.

"We call upon Iran, however, to produce tangible results rapidly and effectively by clarifying all outstanding issues and concerns on Iran's nuclear programme, including topics which could have a military nuclear dimension," the statement said.

Sanctions as a political tool for exerting pressure are ineffective in making Iran change its basically rational policy choice
Manouchehr Mottaki
Iranian foreign minister

The powers said they continued to be seriously concerned by the programme, but that they would delay any resolution until they received reports by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"We agree to finalise a text for a third UN Security Council sanctions resolution... with the intention of bringing it to a vote in the UN Security Council unless the November reports of Dr Solana and Dr ElBaradei show a positive outcome of their efforts," the statement said.

The ministers said they had also asked Mr Solana to meet Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, "to lay the foundation for future negotiations".

Afterwards, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the meeting had been split between those countries pushing for negotiations and those wanting immediate sanctions.

"There is a compromise, but a good compromise," he said. "We are still working on sanctions."

'Racing ahead'

The US Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns, said the joint statement sent a very tough and strict message to Iran.

He warned Iran was trying to accelerate its uranium enrichment programme, but said Washington was confident it would be reined in eventually.

"There is no question they're racing ahead," he told the BBC.

"The question is: can we find the right combination of pressure and diplomatic inducements, negotiations, to convince them that they'd be a lot better off if they would just stop this nuclear business and become a civilised member of the international community and a peaceful member of that community?"

Earlier, the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, insisted tougher sanctions would not change his country's nuclear programme.

"Sanctions as a political tool for exerting pressure are ineffective in making Iran change its basically rational policy choice," he told the Asia Society in New York.


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Diplomats voice concern about Iran's nuclear programme





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