Europeans move towards UN action against Iran

The UN Security Council's major powers and Germany have told Iran to suspend all nuclear activities that could lead to the production of a bomb. But after protracted talks in London involving senior officials from the US, Britain, China, France and Russia, there appeared to be no agreement on tactics.

The Europeans said they intended to call for an emergency session of the UN's nuclear watchdog on 2-3 February that would have the power to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible action. But China said it opposed such a tough approach against oil-rich Iran, which is a major trading partner. "China believes all relevant sides should remain restrained and stick to solving the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations," the Foreign Ministry said.

As the talks ended, a German diplomat said: "We have begun drafting a resolution. It calls for Mohamed ElBaradei (the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency) to report Iran to the UN Security Council."

British diplomats have played down suggestions that Iran would be referred by the 35-nation IAEA board to the UN for sanctions, after it became clear that there is no international appetite to punish the Iranians for ending a voluntary freeze on uranium enrichment activities last week.

Iran warned at the weekend that oil prices could rise even higher if sanctions were imposed.

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, held out the possibility of a compromise by suggesting that Iran's uranium enrichment took place in Russia.

Meanwhile, Iran said it was barring CNN from working in the country "until further notice" due to its mistranslation of comments made by its president.

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