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Friday, October 06, 2006

World powers gather in London over Iran

LONDON (Reuters): Ministers from six world powers will meet in London on Friday to discuss how to tackle Iran over its nuclear programme, with the United States, backed by Britain, expected to push for sanctions.

Russia and China, however, oppose this route and some European countries say diplomacy must be given longer.

Iran again urged the West on Thursday to solve the standoff through talks but repeated it would not stop uranium enrichment. Tehrann says the programme is only for power generation but the West suspects it wants to make a nuclear bomb.

U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and representatives from China, France, Germany and Russia will gather for ministerial-level talks in the British capital from 5.00 pm.

The meeting will follow discussions earlier in the day between senior officials from their respective countries, U.S. and British officials said.

The purpose of the meeting is "to discuss the next steps on Iran", a Foreign Office spokesman told Reuters.

World powers are divided over how best to resolve the Iran deadlock.

Washington is lobbying hard for sanctions at the U. N. Security Council after long running talks with the Islamic Republic to stop enrichment failed to produce results.

China and Russia are against such a move, while European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Thursday the door to dialogue with Tehran should stay open for now.

The six powers meeting in London are veto-wielding Security Council members apart from Germany.

Pressure is mounting to agree on a way forward after Solana said on Wednesday that Iran was still unyielding on the crucial issue -- a U.N. demand it stop enrichment to rebuild trust -- despite "endless talks". The demand had an August 31 deadline.

Seizing on his remarks, the United States -- Iran's arch-foe -- said the logical upshot was to resort to punitive sanctions.

In New York, Britain's U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said he expected the Security Council to discuss Iran next week, including non-military sanctions under Article 41 of the U.N. Charter.

Many EU states are cool on sanctions due to hefty trade stakes in Iran, reliance on Iranian oil, concern Iran might quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or fears of heightened terrorism against the West.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his part, said the Islamic Republic would resist pressure to halt its atomic work.
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