UN closes in on resolution over sanctions against Iran

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The Independent Online

The big powers last night agreed the contents of a draft UN resolution that would tighten existing financial and travel sanctions against Iran in the hope of coercing Tehran into halting its sensitive activities that could eventually lead to a nuclear bomb.

But the foreign ministers of Britain, France, China, Russia, the US and Germany did not go into details on the text, which was probably the minimum agreement possible in order to maintain unity and keep up the international pressure on Iran. It also remained unclear how long it would take to complete negotiations on the resolution before it is submitted to the UN security council.

Any draft resolution needs to secure the backing of all five permanent members to have a chance of being passed unanimously.

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who attended the negotiations in Berlin, said he was "very pleased" with the outcome of yesterday's talks, which he described as "united, constructive and determined". But his statement urging Iran to comply with UN demands to halt its uranium enrichment activities also held out a carrot to Iran, presumably with the backing of Russia which has been wary of further sanctions. Mr Miliband said that if Iran complied, it would benefit from a "far-reaching offer of economic and scientific, as well as political, co-operation".

Yesterday's agreement was the culmination of four months of negotiations on a third resolution aimed at curbing Iranian nuclear ambitions, launched on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Iran, for its part, says that its nuclear intentions are peaceful and has steadfastly refused UN demands to halt its uranium enrichment programme.