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(photo credit: AP Photo/IKONOS satellite image courtesy of GeoEye)
Britain said Friday a deal is emerging on a UN resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, but Russia remains opposed to a European and US-backed travel ban against top officials in the country's nuclear and missile programs.
Ambassadors from six key nations drafting the resolution - Britain, France, Germany, the US, Russia and China - reported some progress at the latest round of closed-door talks on Friday afternoon.
"I think a deal is emerging," Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said. "On all of the elements that were contentious, there is now a way through them. It's a question of consolidating the progress we made this afternoon."
He said he expects the resolution to be finalized by Tuesday, but Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said "things are not ready yet" to put it in a final form.
"We have made some modest progress, but there are some things to be discussed," Churkin said. "So we are going back to the capitals and meeting Monday morning."
The latest draft would order all countries to ban the supply of specified materials and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs and impose a travel ban and asset freeze on top figures in the country's nuclear and missile programs who are named on a UN list.
Acting US ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the United States is still "fighting for" a travel ban which he called "a top priority."
Churkin said earlier this week that Moscow believes the travel ban is unnecessary.
Asked Friday whether both sides were holding strong on the travel ban, he replied: "We are very strong on everything, but there has been some progress on important issues ... we are moving ahead."
Wolff said the United States wants the resolution adopted "as soon as possible."
France's UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said even if there is not agreed language yet on some points, "we are getting closer on many of the difficulties."
"I think we could make it next week," he said.
The six countries offered Iran a package of economic incentives and political rewards in June if it agreed to consider a long-term moratorium on enrichment and commit to a freeze on uranium enrichment before talks on its nuclear program.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly and defiantly said his country would continue enrichment, and is not intimidated by the possibility of sanctions.
Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at the peaceful production of nuclear energy, but the United States and Europeans suspect Teheran's ultimate goal is the production of nuclear weapons.
With Iran refusing to comply with an Aug. 31 council deadline to stop enrichment, Britain and France circulated a draft sanctions resolution in late October.
To meet Russian and Chinese concerns that the initial resolution was too broad, the draft has been revised to specify in greater detail exactly what materials and technology would be prohibited from being supplied to Iran and to name those individuals and companies that would be affected.
The revised draft also removed a reference to a nuclear facility being built by the Russians at Bushehr, Iran - another demand by Russia. The facility, expected to go on line in late 2007, would be Iran's first atomic power plant.
Churkin said on Wednesday Moscow also had concerns about some proposed restrictions on Iranian activities and details of a proposed freeze of the financial assets of companies, individuals and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs.