- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

NEW YORK — Key nations on the U.N. Security Council narrowed differences yesterday on a resolution to further sanction Iran over its nuclear program, with diplomats saying that a preliminary version could begin circulating as early as today.

The text, being drafted by the United States, Britain, France and former council member Germany, is expected to:

• Expand a list of Iranian officials whose travel will be closely monitored.

• Limit Iran’s ability to export small weapons.

• Curb loans to Iran by governments and possibly international organizations.

Russian and Chinese diplomats have indicated that they are uncomfortable with some elements of the proposal, which is significantly diluted from initial U.S. and British proposals.

“We are not at the point where we can say we have agreed on the overall approach,” said Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, acting chief of the U.S. Mission. “We had a good discussion but there are still issues that delegations have not been able to agree on.”

Despite these gaps, Mr. Wolff told reporters yesterday, he hoped a resolution could be put to a vote this week.

In December, the council adopted a package of limited sanctions to deny Iran technology and equipment necessary to enrich uranium.

The Iranian government has rejected international demands that it stop enriching uranium, which can be used to generate electricity or make atomic bombs.

Tehran rejected the latest U.N. effort yesterday.

“The adoption of another resolution is unwelcome but is not worrying,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters, Agence France-Presse reported from Tehran. “It will not affect our work and will not concern our people.”

The new resolution reflects an effort to gradually increase pressure on Iran to freeze its nuclear program and return to negotiations over its nuclear future.

“The implicit understanding is that this is an incremental approach, reversible at any time” when Iran begins to comply with U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Security Council demands, a council diplomat said.

In a critical Feb. 28 report from the IAEA, inspectors said they were not satisfied that Iran’s nuclear program was intended solely to generate electricity.

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