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German Foreign Minister Welcomes Iran Resolution

German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has lauded the draft resolution over Iran's nuclear program agreed by the world's major powers on Friday. It included no new sanctions.

Steinmeier speaks at the podium of the UN General Assembly

Steinmeier spoke at the UN General Assembly on Friday

Steinmeier said that he was relieved that the group of five permanent Security Council powers plus Germany had remained united over the Iran issue. Western powers had feared that Russia would withdraw its support after cancelling a meeting on Thursday.

Without such unity, Steinmeier said, pressure on Iran could not be maintained, adding that the draft resolution would likely be approved by the council on Saturday. He was speaking on the sidelines of a UN assembly meeting in New York.

The resolution "reaffirms" existing sanctions that have been placed on Iran over its refusal to comply with Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to build nuclear weapons.

Iranian flag superimposed on Russian one

Russia is reluctant to impose further sanctions on Tehran

No new sanctions against Iran have been put forward something the United States, France and Britain had been pushing for this week.

In an interview with Ruters news agency, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said the six nations wanted to show they stood together in confronting Tehran over its nuclear program.

"I think it's also especially important that the Iranians recognize that the P5 plus 1 process is intact," said Rice, referring to the five Security Council members and Germany.

She said she did not know whether major powers would agree on a fourth sanctions resolution against Iran by the end of the Bush administration.

Three sanctions resolutions against Iran have already been passed by the 15-nation council. A report by the UN-backed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week said Iran had expanded uranium enrichment activities and was not fully cooperating with the agency's investigation.

Rice scolds security council

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against backdrop with Iranian flag with atomic symbol wrapped around it

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sharply criticized by Rice

Meanwhile, Rice chided the council for not focussing on what she said were the biggest threats to international peace during a Security Council meeting on Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories.

The US had expected the Security Council to address Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for the "destruction" of Israel during a speech before the General Assembly on Tuesday, she said.

"When this council decides what really needs to be taken up as a threat to international peace and security, that to me makes the top of the list," Rice said.

Western suspicions linger

Western countries suspect Iran is seeking the capability to develop nuclear weapons, while Tehran maintains its program is solely for producing civilian nuclear energy.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that despite the failure to reach an agreement on new sanctions, the resolution was designed "to affirm our unity, to rally international support" for an ongoing carrot-and-stick approach against Iran, which involves offering economic incentives if it halts its program and leaves open more sanctions if it continues.

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