Security Council Is Given Iran Resolution
Thursday, May 4, 2006
UNITED NATIONS, May 3 -- Britain, France and Germany presented the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday with a draft resolution that urges states to restrict nuclear trade with Iran and requires Tehran to halt enriching uranium or face "further measures," a veiled reference to possible sanctions.
Russia and China immediately signaled they will oppose the U.S.-backed resolution, which demands that Iran halt nuclear research and development activities, and stop construction on a heavy-water nuclear reactor at Arak because it could be used to produce weapons-grade fuel. The resolution calls on governments to prevent the transfer to Iran of all "items, materials, goods and technology" that could be used to enrich or reprocess nuclear fuel or advance the Islamic state's missile programs.
The resolution calls on the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency to present a report on Iran's compliance with the demands to the IAEA board and the Security Council. The United States and the Europeans favor a deadline of two weeks to a month.
The latest action marks an escalation in a three-year campaign by the West to pressure Iran to scale back its accelerating nuclear activities. Despite broad concern about Iran's program among nations on the Security Council, there are deep differences over how the council should respond.
Russia and China have opposed even an implicit threat of sanctions, but U.S. and European diplomats are hoping they can persuade the two veto-wielding powers to support this resolution, or at least abstain from a vote.
Senior Iranian officials have said that they will not abide by the resolution, which they assert unjustly limits their right, under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program.
U.S. and European diplomats said they hope to have a vote on the resolution before Tuesday, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to discuss Iran's nuclear program in New York with senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
"We are very skeptical about the sanctions. We think historically they have not been very useful," said Russia's new ambassador, Vitaly Churkin. "We hope that we can find a political and diplomatic solution."
Churkin said that Russia, which supplies nuclear technology and missile components to Iran, has strong reservations about some key provisions in the draft resolution. He expressed concern that the threat of unspecified "further measures" against Tehran could be used as a pretext for military action. "We do not believe the matter can be resolved by the use of force."
"I don't think this draft as it stands now will produce good results," said China's ambassador, Wang Guangya.
U.S. and European diplomats stressed that the resolution before the council is not intended to threaten sanctions or the use of force, although it was written under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced through sanctions or force. Those steps would require additional review by the council.
Bush administration officials said that they ultimately intend to pursue a broad range of sanctions -- including a ban on weapons sales and other commercial activities that could benefit Iran's nuclear program -- if Tehran continues to enrich uranium.
"This resolution will not deal with sanctions," said U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton. But he added: "We expect that if Iran doesn't back away from their conduct, which constitutes a threat to international peace and security, that the council would be ready to take steps subsequently -- the first of which would be targeted sanctions, and we don't exclude that we would take other steps in connection with sanctions outside the council as well."
The 15-nation council issued a nonbinding statement on March 29 urging Iran to cease its enrichment activities within 30 days. Iran defied the request, and announced that it was pressing ahead on its efforts to enrich uranium, which it insists is for an energy program, not arms. The IAEA reported on April 29 that Iran is accelerating its nuclear enrichment efforts and concealing crucial information about its program.
In Washington, Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed their mutual determination to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.
"The Iranians must understand that we won't fold, that our partnership is strong, that for the sake of world peace they should abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions," Bush told reporters before dinner with Merkel at the White House.
Merkel, who was visiting Bush for the second time in four months, praised their "very, very good relationship" and declared herself "in total agreement" on Iran. At the same time, she emphasized the need to convince other countries, presumably Russia, and to take an incremental approach rather than push too fast for sanctions or other tougher action.
Staff writer Peter Baker in Washington contributed to this report.