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Iran to press ahead with nuclear goals
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Iranian leaders yesterday vowed to press on with Teheran's disputed nuclear work regardless of any new UN sanctions, a day after world powers agreed on the outline of a new resolution.

"The Iranian nation has chosen its path and will continue with it," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the students news agency ISNA.

"Such illegal behavior (by Western powers) ... will not divert the Iranian nation from its path."

The United States and other Western powers fear Iran's nuclear activities are aimed at building nuclear weapons. Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude oil exporter, says its nuclear program is intended to generate electricity.

World powers agreed on Tuesday on the outline of a third sanctions resolution against Iran, but diplomats said the draft did not contain the punitive economic measures that Washington had been pushing for.

Ahmadinejad called on major powers to avoid repeating past "mistakes".

"We advise them not to repeat their previous mistakes ... They cannot make up for the past with a new mistake," the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

The West has faced a diplomatic showdown with Iran since 2002 and the UN Security Council has already imposed two sets of sanctions, in December 2006 and March 2007.

Washington has spearheaded a drive for new sanctions and had been pushing for a new resolution to impose a ban on business with leading Iranian state banks.

But that drive appears to have failed. Russia and China, both commercial partners of Iran, have hardened their opposition to tough sanctions since a US intelligence report last month said Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Berlin on Tuesday after a nearly two-hour meeting with his counterparts from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, that the new draft of a sanctions resolution would be presented to the UN Security Council in the coming weeks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the new draft resolution was not tough or punitive and "welcomes the progress made between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ..."

"The measures in this draft do not have a tough sanctioning character," Lavrov said.

He said the new draft resolution would "call on countries to be alert in their transport relations with Iran so that those relations are not used to transport (potentially dangerous) materials."

His remarks suggested the United States failed to win agreement in Berlin on punitive economic sanctions against Iran.

The draft resolution, Chinese experts said, is a compromise between world powers.

"The resolution is the result of compromise. While the US wants more sanctions, neither China, Russia, nor the European countries are willing to be hard on Iran," Hua Liming, a former Chinese ambassador to Iran, told China Daily.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who also attended the Berlin meeting, said: "The action taken by the UN Security Council should be helpful to the realization of the above objectives."

Yang said it is in the common interest of the international community to resolve the Iran nuclear issue peacefully through diplomatic negotiation.

"China expects that the US and Iran both can make some compromise," Hua said.

As question are being raised in the US about the Bush Administration's strategy of containing Iran by rallying the support of Sunni Arab states, the draft resolution may exert influence on Iran's diplomacy front, Hua said.

"China can only play an important role but not a key role in resolving the Iran nuclear issue," he added.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Teheran had exceeded its international obligations on its nuclear dossier.

"Iran has gone beyond its obligations," Saeed Jalili told a committee of the European Parliament during a visit to Brussels. He was expected to meet European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana in the Belgian capital later yesterday.

"Everyone acknowledges those activities are peaceful," said Jalili, referring to Iran's nuclear activities. He reiterated Tehran's belief that Iran had a right to enrich uranium.

IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei won agreement from Iran this month to answer remaining questions about its past covert nuclear work within four weeks.

Western diplomats say expectations are low that leaders in Teheran will be forthcoming, but Iran says it has accelerated its cooperation with the IAEA since then. Ahmadinejad said Iran had "good" cooperation with the agency.

"No one aside from the agency has the right to interfere in Iran's nuclear issue. No one can threaten us or impose something on Iran," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

(China Daily January 24, 2008)

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