UNITED NATIONS – The United States said on Thursday it hopes to agree on new punitive measures against Iran over its nuclear program within weeks, as six world powers prepare to meet in New York to draft a sanctions resolution.
"Negotiations have started previously in capitals and indeed here. They are intensifying. I am not prepared to predict when they will conclude or not," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters in New York.
"We are working to get this done swiftly, within a matter of weeks in the spring," she said, reiterating a desire by U.S. President Barack Obama for a tougher global stance against Iran's developing nuclear capabilities.
Rice is expected to meet on Thursday with her counterparts from Britain, France, Russia and China -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who hold veto power -- plus Germany to begin drafting a resolution for a vote by the full 15-nation council.
The six powers are often called the "P5-plus-one".
Iran rejects Western allegations that its nuclear program is aimed at producing atomic weapons and says its ambitions are limited to generating electricity.
A U.S. draft proposal agreed with European allies and passed on to Russia and China a month ago will form the basis of discussions, U.N. diplomats say.
It targets the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and shipping and other firms but not Iran's oil and gas sectors.
Although the U.S. and European delegations would like a resolution adopted this month, diplomats say negotiations could go on at least until June as China and Russia are expected to work to dilute any proposed punitive steps before handing a draft resolution to the Security Council.
The issue may also come up on the sidelines of Obama's April 12-13 summit on nuclear security in Washington, which Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and dozens of other leaders plan to attend.
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