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Time for sanctions on Iranian nuclear program – US

Gregory SchulteAgence France Presse, Vienna – The time has come for sanctions on Iran over its atomic program, the US ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog said Tuesday.

His comments came amid diplomacy in Berlin and other capitals this week designed to get Tehran back to the negotiating table, and avoid sanctions.

"The time has come for the (United Nations) Security Council to back international diplomacy with international sanctions," US ambassador Gregory Schulte told a meeting of a foreign press association in Vienna.

He said that Iran’s actions "pose a threat to international peace and security."

Schulte said a report last week by the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency had "in just over five pages" listed "a dozen examples of Iran’s failure to provide access (to IAEA inspectors) to information, facilities and individuals."

The IAEA report confirmed that Iran has failed to suspend uranium enrichment, despite calls from world powers as well as the Security Council for this strategic nuclear fuel work to be halted. Enrichment makes nuclear power fuel but also atom bomb material.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remained defiant in talks in Tehran with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the weekend.

Ahmadinejad told Annan he was prepared to negotiate on Iran’s nuclear program but would not accept a suspension of enrichment before talks.

By choosing not to suspend, "Iran’s leaders are making the negative choice, a course of confrontation over one of negotiation."

"This course will bring not reward but isolation and sanction," Schulte said.

Sanctions should be "applied in a graduated fashion" and "target Iran’s weapons programs and those who guide and support them," Schulte said.

A flurry of international diplomacy over the Iran nuclear crisis resumes this week, with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani probably meeting Wednesday in Vienna.

The six world powers trying to win guarantees that Iran will not seek nuclear weapons are confirmed to meet in Berlin on Thursday.

But sanctions are not looming in the short-term, even if the United States had seen the Berlin meeting as the time to decide how to get the Security Council to move against Iran.

Iran last week defied an August 31 Council deadline for it to halt uranium enrichment, which makes nuclear reactor fuel but also atom bomb material.

The European Union said at a foreign ministers meeting in Finland Saturday that it would give Iran extra time to show it was serious about negotiating but warned that the Western bloc expected a clear response.

But Schulte said: "We’re going to still move forward in the Security Council."

While Iranian allies and key trading partners Russia and China are reluctant to impose sanctions, Schulte said that at both the IAEA in Vienna and the Security Council in New York, "Russia and China share the concern with like-minded countries about" Iran’s nuclear program.

Schulte refused however to indicate a time frame for getting the Council to move to impose sanctions.