WORLD> Middle East
6 nations ponder how to punish Iran for nukes
Updated: 2009-11-20 00:00

BRUSSELS: The United States and five other world powers will meet Friday in Brussels to discuss what measures can be taken to punish Tehran for its refusal to halt its nuclear enrichment program.

The meeting will include the UN Security Council's permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the US plus Germany, an EU official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to disclose details.

Iran announced Wednesday it would not export its enriched uranium for further processing, effectively rejecting the latest plan brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The plan aimed to delay Tehran's ability to build a nuclear weapon by sending most of the uranium needed for that out of the country. The United States and other nations fear Iran wants to build nuclear arms, but Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

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Following Iran's announcement, President Barack Obama said Washington has started talking with allies about new punishment against Iran. Speaking during a visit to South Korea, Obama said a new package of punitive steps will likely be developed "over the next several weeks."

He did not elaborate on possible measures under consideration.

The United Nations last month offered a deal to take much of Iran's low-enriched uranium to reduce its stockpile of material that could be enriched to a higher level, and possibly be used to make nuclear weapons.

Iran would export its uranium, which is enriched at less than 5 percent enough to produce fuel to burn in plants. Enriching uranium to much higher levels can produce weapons-grade material. In exchange, the Iranian uranium would be further enriched in Russia and then be sent to France. Once there, it would be converted into fuel rods, which would be returned to Iran.

The amount of uranium exported by Iran under the UN plan, about 1.2 tons (1,100 kilograms), represents about 70 percent of its stockpile. It would have been sent to Russia in one batch by the end of the year.

That uranium would be returned a year later as refined fuel rods, which can power reactors but cannot be readily turned into weapons-grade material.

"Yesterday, Iran clearly refused the deal," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Thursday. "We are going to evaluate with our partners ... the consequences of this political response."

But Iranian Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki played down the threat of sanctions, saying embargoes have proved ineffective since the 1960s.

"I think they are wise enough not to repeat failed experiences," Mottaki told reporters in Manila.

In Moscow, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he would represent Russia at the talks Friday in Brussels, the ITAR-Tass said.