U.S. considers sanctions on Iran
The United States said on Friday it was consulting European governments about possible sanctions against Iran for intransigence over its nuclear programme, but the EU signalled it wanted to see more dialogue with Tehran.
Iran faces the threat of U.N. Security Council sanctions after the U.N.'s atomic watchdog said Tehran had refused to stop work on its nuclear programme by a
Thursday deadline. Washington accuses Iran of seeking
atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies.
"If the Western countries try to prohibit our nation's advance in peaceful nuclear technology by making frowning faces, they shall face this nation's anger," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by state TV as saying in a speech.
The United States is the driving force behind possible sanctions but Russia cast doubt on whether the Security Council could reach a quick consensus and said threatening Iran would lead to a "dead end".
The five countries with permanent seats on the Security Council -- China, Britain, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany will meet in Berlin on September 7 to discuss the way forward, the French Foreign Ministry said.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said any sanctions should target Iran's leaders.
"We are in consultations with the EU and other governments about what the first sanction resolution could be," Bolton told reporters in New York, saying one option was to start with a small number of sanctions and escalate them over time.
"Another option is a very tough sanctions resolution as the first one. We haven't made any decision on that point and I am not aware that any European government has made any decision on that point," said Bolton.
In Europe, governments expressed varying degrees of disappointment at Iran's stance but were united in keeping sanctions at arm's length.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin regretted "very strongly" what he called Iran's insufficient response.
"We think it is possible to go forward with dialogue but it is important that the international community show Iran the necessity to change position," Villepin said after talks with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi in Rome.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said her goal was a negotiated solution on the basis of an offer by Britain, China, Russia, France, Germany and the United States of a package of incentives if Iran ceased enrichment.
The U.N. watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on Thursday Tehran had failed to meet an August 31 deadline to halt uranium enrichment.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the Islamic Republic believed the only possible way to achieve a fair and acceptable outcome for all parties was through negotiations and by respecting Iran's legitimate rights.
"Iran's activities are transparent, public and have peaceful aims far away from any ambiguities and (the issue) can be easily solved through negotiations," he was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
Asefi said the IAEA report showed Iran had met its commitments under international regulations, including the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and also showed Tehran's "extensive cooperation" with the U.N. watchdog.
Russia said sanctions would only exacerbate the situation.
"We take into account the experience of the past and we cannot ally ourselves with ultimatums, which all lead to a dead end," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
"Yes, there are countries whose policies raise doubts, and cause discontent, but we all live in the same world and we need to ... draw them into dialogue, and not isolation and sanctions."
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Reuters he hoped to meet Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, in coming days to seek a clear answer to the major powers' proposals for broad cooperation if Tehran halted uranium enrichment.
The price of oil eased below $70 a barrel on Friday over the prospect of sanctions against Iran receding.
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