Pact Near on Deadline for Iran

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 29, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, July 28 -- The Security Council neared agreement Friday on a resolution that would threaten economic sanctions against Iran if it does not halt its enrichment and reprocessing of uranium by the end of August.

The council's five permanent members -- the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain -- and Germany reached agreement in principle on a draft resolution, according to senior council members. The council's current president, Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France, said he hoped to call for a vote on Monday.

Passage of such a resolution would mark the first time the 15-nation council has imposed a binding requirement on Iran to suspend nuclear activities. It is also the first time that the council has agreed to consider sanctions against Tehran if the nation fails to comply with U.N. demands.

The United States has been pressing for international sanctions against Iran for more than two years, insisting that Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons. American diplomats have cited reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency outlining a pattern of Iranian deception, stretching back 18 years, regarding its nuclear activities.

But Washington has encountered stiff resistance from China and Russia, which have argued that the IAEA never presented proof that Iran was diverting materials from its nuclear energy program to an atomic weapons program. Each country holds veto power in the Security Council.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice overcame Chinese and Russian opposition by pledging the United States to participate directly in international talks with Iran to resolve the crisis. Also, in June, the six nations behind Friday's resolution pledged to provide Iran with fuel assurances, trade concessions and other inducements in exchange for a series of verifiable evidence that Iran is not diverting nuclear fuel to a secret weapons program.

John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States would seek to impose sanctions if Iran did not accept the offer.

"This is a mandatory command -- will be if it's adopted, of course," Bolton said. "If they choose not to suspend their uranium-enrichment requirements, they will face increasing international isolation, economic and political pressure."

Russia and China have played down the resolution's threat of sanctions and suggested they may resist U.S. and European efforts to impose the restrictions on Tehran.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said the resolution contained "no hint of a threat" and was intended to accommodate Iran's request that it be given until Aug. 22 to respond to the June offer.

"I'm satisfied with this text," Churkin said. The resolution, he said, "sends exactly the right message. It's an invitation for Iran to negotiations."

Although China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, had warned Thursday that the Iranian negotiations could be complicated by a dispute with Washington over the Israel-Lebanon conflict, France's La Sablière said Friday that China had expressed support for the joint resolution.

The measure presents Iran with a "mandatory" obligation to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities, including those for research and development. It calls on Iran to "take steps" to "build confidence" in its claims to be pursuing nuclear energy.

The resolution also calls on all U.N. members to prevent the transfer of materials or technology to Iran that could contribute to enrichment activities or a ballistic missile program.

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