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China, Russia see sanctions punishing Iranian people

China and Russia expressed concern today, that proposals to restrict Iran's arms sales and commercial trade would punish the Iranian people for the government's refusal to halt uranium enrichment activities.

The US and its European allies are seeking a United Nations resolution that would bar Iran from exporting arms, prohibit some trade and ban the travel of Iranian officials and groups involved with the nation's nuclear or missile programs. „There is a lot of attention and discussion to make sure the Iranian people are not punished,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after meeting with envoys of Britain, China, France, Germany and the US. „We are sticking to the philosophy of this effort to get a negotiated outcome that puts emphasis on things which are related to nuclear activities.” Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters that his government wants to „focus on nuclear and missile areas.” The ambassadors agreed that a draft resolution might be circulated to the full 15-member Security Council next week. The text will demand that Iran halt enrichment activities and ask the UN's nuclear competition office agency to report within 60 days on Iranian compliance, the envoys said.

Iran has defied two UN resolutions, the last a measure adopted on December 23 that imposed an asset freeze on 12 named individuals and 11 groups such as the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. It also barred the Iranian government from acquiring materials or technology that might be used to build nuclear weapons. While the demand to halt enrichment, with a report within 60 days, echoes the December 23 measure, the Russian and Chinese envoys said they are willing to back tougher sanctions than have previously been imposed -- most likely a travel ban and an expanded asset freeze. Iran, which has the second largest oil and gas reserves in the world, has repeatedly said it's enriching uranium for power stations.

Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to the UN, tried this week to counter movement toward a resolution by meeting with envoys of the Security Council's 10 elected members and giving them a set of nine „talking points” supporting his government's position. The document, obtained by Bloomberg News states that Iran is adhering to all International Atomic Energy Agency requirements and is willing to negotiate a settlement to the dispute. „Suspension is neither an option or a solution,” the document states, referring to the demand that Iran suspend enrichment activities. It also says Britain, France, Germany and the US are using the Security Council „as an instrument of pressure and intimidation” against Iran.

Alejandro Wolff, the acting US envoy, said that while the six nations have agreed on some elements of expanded sanctions, „outstanding areas of differences” remain. Proposals that might restrict Iran's trade and financial transactions are the principle source of contention, Wolff said. „The Chinese main difficulty is with the financial and trade sanctions against Iran,” Wang said. „We should punish Iran for the activities in the nuclear field.” Wolff defended the proposed embargo on Iranian arms sales, saying it would be „completely mistaken” to say it's meant to punish the Iranian people. „We have a country that is pursuing a program that is deemed to be a threat to regional and international peace and security,” Wolff said. „There is little logic in allowing and encouraging that country to sell arms for money to finance those activities.” (Bloomberg)