UN to threaten Iranians with sanctions over nuclear plans

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The UN Security Council has begun negotiations on a draft resolution that could lead to targeted sanctions against Iran because of its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

A senior US official, speaking in London, urged the 15-member council to act because the "dangerous" leadership in Tehran cannot be trusted when it says that its nuclear programme is purely peaceful.

"We cannot allow this dangerous regime to gain access to the most deadly of weapons. This radical regime poses a clear threat to international security. A nuclear-armed Iran could pose an even greater threat to the region, including Israel," said Greg Schulte, the American ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

The European-drafted resolution would compel Iran to give up its uranium enrichment programme, threatening unspecified "further measures" unless the process is halted.

Foreign ministers of the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany are to hold further talks but the Chinese and Russians remain wary of any sanctions.

The resolution does not accuse Iran of violating international law or the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty but urges it to observe the UN demands in order "to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purposes of its programme".

Referring to the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and said the Holocaust was "a myth", Mr Schulte said: "We have to wonder what a man like that would do with nuclear weapons."

He accused the President of exploiting the nuclear issue to "solidify his grip on power".