From: Reuters
Published January 31, 2008 05:19 AM

S.Africa hints at Iran nuclear resolution delay

PRETORIA (Reuters) - A one month delay to consider a new U.N. Security Council draft resolution that would punish Iran for moving ahead with its nuclear program would not be a disaster, a South African official said on Thursday.

The Security Council's five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France -- along with Germany have circulated a draft that would toughen existing sanctions on Iran. The text calls for asset freezes and travel bans on specific Iranian officials.

Ambassadors from the group, known as the P5+1, are meeting with representatives of South Africa -- a non permanent member of the Security Council -- on Thursday to discuss the proposals.

"One-month (delay) cannot cause a nuclear disaster but I don't know what the P5+1 have in their minds," George Nene, head of multilateral affairs in South Africa's foreign ministry told reporters during a briefing in Pretoria.

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Council diplomats have said it will take weeks before the U.N. Security Council is ready to vote on the new round of sanctions.

South Africa is an important member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a bloc of developing countries that has resisted the idea of forcing Iran to halt uranium enrichment. They worry that wealthier countries want a monopoly on enriching uranium fuel.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to deliver a report at the end of February or in early March after lengthy talks with Tehran over the country's nuclear work.

The United States, which has spearheaded the drive for new sanctions on Iran, and other western powers fear Iran's nuclear activities are aimed at building atomic weapons.

Oil-rich Iran says its nuclear program is intended to generate electricity, and its leaders have vowed to press on with the nuclear program regardless of any new sanctions.

(Reporting by Paul Simao; editing by Keith Weir)

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