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Iran nuclear deal: six world powers mull sanctions

As hope fades for an Iran nuclear deal before the end of the year, UN Security Council members discussed possible sanctions at a meeting in Brussels.

By Staff writer / November 20, 2009

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei addresses a news conference in Berlin, Thursday.

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

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A closed-door meeting of six world powers signaled growing impatience with Iran's inscrutability on its nuclear program, coming a day after US President Barak Obama in Asia said Iran would face "consequences" if it refused to show good faith.

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The Brussels meeting of UN Security Council members plus Germany represents the first collective focus by the powers to inch forward on punitive measures towards Iran – after the Islamic Republic's failure to make good on an Oct. 1 agreement in principle to ship most of its enriched uranium outside its borders. The deal was seen as a good-faith test, and a way for the sides to negotiate in a more stable atmosphere without the imminent threat of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

Western diplomats say the Brussels meeting of third and fourth-tier diplomats reviewed options both to try and engage Iran, but also to explore what measures to take if Iran continues to balk after what has generally been described as a year-end deadline.

"You aren't going to see the word 'sanctions' in formal diplomacy, publically, until the end of the year," said a Western official.

Sanctions were, however, discussed in general terms, said an EU official quoted by Reuters. "These things are about timing and this was not the right time," the unnamed official said.

President Obama on Thursday said the US has "begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences" – should Iran not be more forthcoming in discussions on its nuclear program, which it insists is for peaceful purposes alone but which the West suspects is a guise for developing nuclear weapons.

'Atmosphere of desperation'

The president's efforts to negotiate with Iran this fall showed he was bending over "backwards," in the words of IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, to reach out to Iran. Yet this week Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki signaled the Islamic Republic wished to reopen technical negotiations to send out 75 percent of its enriched uranium for further processing abroad.