6 powers meet again on Iran sanctions

Russian, Chinese ambassadors call discussion "very constructive."

Ahmadinejad visits Natanz 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Ahmadinejad visits Natanz 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Six major powers held a second round of talks Wednesday on possible new sanctions against Iran for refusing to negotiate on its nuclear program, which the US and others suspect is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, the head of Russia's state nuclear corporation said Wednesdya night that a reactor built byRussia at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant is scheduled to open inAugust, Reuters reported."The launch is scheduled for August.We're on schedule," Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters in Argentina duringa visit on Wednesday. "Bushehr doesn't threaten the regime ofnonproliferation in any way. No one has any concerns about Bushehr."The United States and its Western allies are pressing for quick adoption of an array of tough sanctions, but Russia and China are still hoping that diplomacy will lead Iran to the negotiating table and have indicated they will only agree to much weaker measures if Teheran refuses.
After more than three hours of talks, Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, and China's UN ambassador, Li Baodong, both called the discussion "very constructive" and Churkin said the six would meet again "very soon."
"We have a very important consultation with a focus on diplomacy," Li said earlier, while heading into the talks at the US Mission.
On the table at the closed-door meeting is a draft UN resolution circulated by the US in January, with some changes proposed by Britain, France and Germany. Ambassadors from the six countries held their first closed meeting on the draft last Thursday.
The draft resolution focuses on five areas: strengthening the existing arms embargo, targeting Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, imposing new sanctions on its energy sector, and strengthening sanctions on its shipping and finance sectors, a UN diplomat familiar with the talks said. It would also add new names of individuals and entities to a list of those subject to an asset freeze and travel ban for their proliferation-related activities.
Foreign ministers from the five veto-wielding permanent Security Council nations — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — and Germany's national security adviser met at a dinner Monday in Washington during the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Barack Obama and gave "clear confirmation" that negotiations should begin on a fourth sanctions resolution, the UN diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussion was private.
Although Obama has called for Security Council action in weeks, the diplomat and others say negotiations will be tough because the gap between the two sides is wide, and it's much more likely that a resolution won't be put to a vote until June.
That would avoid any conflict with the five-year review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, which will take place at UN headquarters in May. Some countries say leaving sanctions dangling over Iran could encourage Teheran to moderate its actions during the NPT, the UN diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.
Putting off a vote until June would also avoid embarrassing Lebanon, which holds the presidency of the UN Security Council in May and has indicated its opposition to sanctions against Iran. The presidency passes to Mexico on June 1.
After months of behind-the-scenes consultations, China agreed in late March to take part in talks on a fourth sanctions resolution.
Obama said Tuesday that China's President Hu Jintao had assured him that China would participate in drafting sessions on strong sanctions.
But Iran expressed doubts later Tuesday that China, which relies on Iran for 11 percent of its energy needs and last year became Teheran's biggest trading partner, would back the US push for new sanctions. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said he did not think Hu was signaling that with his comments.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in Beijing onTuesday that China supports a "dual-track strategy," combiningdiplomacy with the possibility of international sanctions against Iran,but the country believes "pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentallysolve it."
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, at a speaking engagement in Washington, also sought to temper US hopes for biting sanctions.
"If nothing happens, we will have to deal with sanctions," Medvedevsaid. "I do not favor paralyzing, crippling sanctions that make peoplesuffer."