, UNITED NATIONS, Dec 11 – Western powers upped the pressure on Iran Thursday, threatening to push for new UN sanctions early next year if Tehran continues to defy demands to halt its sensitive nuclear fuel work.
The renewed pressure was met with calls for patience from China and Russia while Iran\’s UN mission accused "some members of the Security Council" of raising "baseless and unfounded allegations regarding the peaceful nature of Iran\’s nuclear activities."
Britain\’s UN Ambassador Mark Grant told reporters that discussions of new UN sanctions would start "at the beginning of the new year" if Tehran fails to reassure the world community about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.
His French counterpart Gerard Araud said: "We make a last call to Iran to respond" to Security Council demands. "If Iran does not… France will present a new resolution of sanctions."
And US Ambassador Susan Rice stressed that the international community "stands firm in its conviction that Iran must comply with its international obligations."
"Should Iran continue to fail to meet its obligations, the international community will have to consider further actions," she added.
The three Western envoys made the remarks after hearing a report from the head of the UN Security Council panel monitoring implementation of a 2007 resolution slapping Iran with an export ban on arms.
The panel gave details of two recent incidents in which vessels carrying arms-related materiel from Iran to Syria were intercepted by UN member states.
Last month, Iran and Syria rejected Israel\’s accusations that a ship it had intercepted in the Mediterranean was carrying arms from Iran for Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
"We are facing a pattern of violations by the Islamic Republic of Iran," Araud told reporters. "We are now convinced that there is a deliberate attempt by Iran to violate the UN resolutions."
He also said that, in parallel, all efforts by six major powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — to coax Tehran into abandoning its nuclear enrichment program had failed.
Western powers suspect Tehran is using uranium enrichment as a cover to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its sole ambition is to develop nuclear power for peaceful ends.
In a statement issued late Thursday, Iran\’s UN mission reiterated that the Islamic Republic\’s "nuclear activities are, and have always been, for peaceful purposes, and thus pose no threat whatsoever to the other states\’ security."
But it also reaffirmed Tehran\’s determination to "fully enjoy its rights to peaceful uses of nuclear technology under the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty)."
Tehran has also restated its readiness to pursue talks with the six major powers "in order to achieve an appropriate, long-term solution that would open the way for wide-scale cooperation on the basis of mutual respect."
While Britain, France and the United States warned of impending sanctions, ambassadors from China and Russia urged more time for diplomatic efforts.
"There is still space for the diplomatic efforts of the international community to resume talks. It may require more time and patience on all parts," said China\’s Zhang Yesui.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin also urged "patience" and "restraint."
The Security Council has so far adopted three sets of sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program.