By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
UNITED NATIONS, March 13 -- The United States, France and Britain failed on Monday to get support from China and Russia on a proposed statement pressuring Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment efforts, diplomats said, and they considered putting a resolution to a vote anyway within the 15-member U.N. Security Council.
The day's events reflected the frustration of the United States and its European allies that a week of closed-door negotiations in New York with China and Russia have failed to yield an agreement. A push for a vote without such an agreement carries the risk of creating a rift among the council's most powerful members.
U.S. and European diplomats hope they can increase diplomatic pressure on Moscow and Beijing by involving other council members in the negotiations, said European diplomats.
France and Britain, the chief sponsors of the proposed statement, scheduled a meeting of all council members for Tuesday afternoon at France's mission to the United Nations, said a Security Council diplomat. They will present elements of a proposed council statement that would call on Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador, said he and his European counterparts will continue to press Russia and China to endorse the text Tuesday morning at a meeting of the council's five permanent members. "We're trying to hold the perm five together, but reality is reality and time is an important factor given the Iranians continue to progress towards overcoming their technological difficulties" in developing a nuclear weapon, Bolton said.
Iran's rejection Sunday of a Russian offer to resolve the crisis by agreeing to enrich Iranian uranium on Russian soil has strained relations between the two countries. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Iran wants to resume negotiations in Moscow, but he expressed frustration with Tehran's tactics. "We are extremely disappointed with the way Iran is behaving in the course of these talks," Lavrov said at a news briefing. "Iran is absolutely no help to those who want to find peaceful ways to solve this problem."
The Russian proposal, which is backed by the United States, the European Union and China, has been the subject of fruitless negotiations between the two sides for weeks. "Frankly, I cannot comment on any Iranian refusal because of contradictory signals from Tehran -- one moment they refuse, the next they do not," Lavrov said.
Russia and China have publicly and privately urged Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium and to cooperate with the U.N. atomic energy agency. But they have vigorously opposed any initiatives in the Security Council that could potentially lead to the imposition of sanctions or to the use of force.
A key sticking point involves a provision in the proposed U.N. statement that would ask the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, to report to the council within 14 days on Iran's compliance. Russia and China, who both favor having the IAEA manage the Iranian nuclear crisis, have proposed that ElBaradei's findings be reported to the IAEA board, not to the Security Council.
But the United States and the Europeans insist that the issue be handled by the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions and to authorize military action. "I think we want a constructive statement," China's ambassador, Wang Guangya, told the Associated Press. "I think they want to be too tough."
Correspondent Peter Finn in Moscow contributed to this report.