Page last updated at 08:35 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

UN close to new sanctions on Iran, France says

Iranian technicians at Bushehr nuclear plant (30/11/09)
Iran has said new sanctions would not affect its nuclear programme

The UN no longer has any reason to wait to consider new sanctions on Iran if it does not respond to concerns over its nuclear programme, France says.

If Iran continued to ignore demands, "we must draw all of the necessary conclusions" and move to sanctions, French Ambassador Gerard Araud said.

And the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says he expects Iran to face "significant additional sanctions".

Mr Gates made his remarks while travelling in northern Iraq.

Iran is already subject to UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, which the West suspects is for military purposes.

The French ambassador was speaking after a report said Iran was trying to defy some of the curbs.

The head of the UN panel which monitors a 2007 ban on Iranian arms exports told the Security Council there was "an apparent pattern of sanctions violations" by Iran over the past three months.

"If Iran continues to do everything it can to violate five Security Council resolutions, if it continues to refuse the slightest confidence measures, to refuse dialogue, transparency after the major revelations that have just been made, we must draw all of the necessary conclusions and that means we must move on to a new resolution involving sanctions," said Mr Araud.

Should Iran continue to fail to meet its obligations, the international community will have to consider further actions
Susan Rice
US ambassador to UN

US ambassador Susan Rice said that while her country still sought a diplomatic solution to the crisis through engagement with Iran, "time is short".

"Should Iran continue to fail to meet its obligations, the international community will have to consider further actions," she said.

British ambassador Mark Grant said discussions about fresh sanctions would start "at the beginning of the new year" unless Iran responded positively before then.

Tough talks

Russia however reiterated its position that it was not seeking further punitive measures against Iran.

"This language of sanctions, it is not our language. It has already been said many times," foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Any move towards a new round of sanctions is expected to involve long and arduous negotiations with reluctant Security Council members, such as China, says the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN.

There is also the question about whether or not agreement could be won on significantly tougher restrictions, she adds.

Iran has insisted its nuclear programme is for purely peace purposes and has warned that further sanctions will be ineffective.

It has not signed up to a six-nation compromise plan over its controversial uranium enrichment programme.

Russia, China, the US, UK, France and Germany have suggested uranium enrichment for civilian nuclear energy could be regulated if Iran handed over its uranium to Russia to manage the process.

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