U.S. Crafts Response on Iran

Technicians explain the use of equipment to a cleric and other visitors during an exhibition by Iran's Atomic Energy Organization at Qom University.
Technicians explain the use of equipment to a cleric and other visitors during an exhibition by Iran's Atomic Energy Organization at Qom University. (By Vahid Salemi -- Associated Press)
By John Ward Anderson and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

PARIS, May 2 -- The United States is working with European allies to craft a binding U.N. resolution demanding that Iran immediately stop nuclear-related activities, and will push for tough economic and diplomatic sanctions if it refuses, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

The statement from R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, came as Iranian officials said they had boosted the purity of their uranium enrichment from 3.6 percent to 4.8 percent, found three new uranium deposits in Iran and would retaliate against Israel if attacked by the United States.

Burns spoke before a closed dinner meeting in Paris with senior diplomats from the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Russia, China, France and Britain -- plus Germany.

There was no immediate comment after the session from the representatives of Russia and China. But a Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that at the meeting the Russians resisted proposals that the new resolution mention Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which is usually invoked to authorize sanctions or military action.

Russia and China, which both hold veto power in the council, contend that sanctions would be counter-productive. In numerous previous meetings about Iran, U.S. and Western European officials have failed to persuade them to sign on to the idea.

A spokesman for Burns said the parties at the meeting agreed to begin Security Council debate and start negotiations on a resolution. A statement from France's Foreign Ministry said that officials from the three European countries presented the broad outlines of a mandatory resolution.

On March 29, the council passed a nonbinding resolution calling on Iran to suspend nuclear activities. Iran ignored it. The proposed new resolution would represent a step up in pressure from the Security Council.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, said Tuesday in Washington that if the Security Council does not ultimately approve sanctions, the United States might line up its own coalition of countries willing to do so.

According to Burns, steps under discussion include a ban on weapons sales to Iran, a prohibition on transferring nuclear technology to Iran that could be used for peaceful or military purposes, and a ban on other commercial activities that could benefit Iran's nuclear program. Officials are also discussing restricting international travel by senior Iranian officials, Burns said.

The United States and its European allies argue that Iran's enrichment program is part of a covert effort to build nuclear weapons. Iran says the sole purpose is to use it in nuclear power plants, a practice recognized under international law as a sovereign right.

Some analysts in Europe argue that tough policies being pushed by the United States and its allies have achieved none of their main goals, and are instead making matters worse.

"The policy to isolate Iran has not only strengthened the most radical segments of the Iranian population, it also has led to the extreme popularity" of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Arab world, said Azadeh Kian-Thiebaut, a political scientist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris.

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