US to press for quick UN sanctions if Iran refuses halt to uranium enrichment

ImageWASHINGTON, Aug 17, 2006 (AFP) – The United States will move quickly for UN Security Council action on sanctions against Iran if Tehran refuses to halt uranium enrichment by the end of the month, a senior State Deparment official said Thursday.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rejection this week of a UN resolution demanding that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment activity by August 31 was "not surprising."

He said the UN Security Council will take up sanctions under resolution 1696 if the deadline is not met.

"We would want to move very quickly," he told reporters, adding that the United States would press for a decision in the first part of September.

Under the resolution, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed al-Baradei would first report on the status of the Iranian uranium enrichment program.

The United States and other western countries believe Iran is enriching uranium to use as fuel for nuclear weapons. But Iran insists the program is to make fuel for civilian reactors.

Iran has said it will reply by August 22 to a package of incentives offered by the five permament members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to halt its uranium enrichment program.

Burns said the United States has an agreement with other permanent members of the Security Council to seek sanctions if Iran fails to comply and "we’re heading for that kind of a decision," he said.

Russia and China, however, were expected to argue in favor of further negotiations. An earlier UN Security Council deadline passed without action on April 28.