U.S. urges U.N. Security Council to impose arms embargo, other measures on Iran

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 15, 2010

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States is pressing the U.N. Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Iran, allow foreign states to seize Iranian ships suspected of carrying materials linked to its nuclear program, and curtail Tehran's ability to raise new investment in the country's energy sector, according to U.N.-based diplomats familiar with the confidential text of the proposed resolution.

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, outlined the U.S. proposal Wednesday in a meeting at the U.S. mission with the key players seeking to negotiate with Iran -- China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. U.S. officials hope to adopt a sanctions resolution punishing Iran for its nuclear activities before the end of April, but some council officials said it was more likely it would pass in June.

The text under negotiation has been written by the United States, with input from Washington's European partners. It has been crafted to target senior officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and a network of Iranian companies and financial institutions the Guard controls. The United States believes these entities have been used to underwrite Tehran's military proxies throughout the Middle East and fund Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear enrichment programs.

China objected strenuously to the U.S. proposal for sanctions on energy investments during a big-power meeting on the text last week in New York, and insisted that it would not accept any provisions that challenged its commercial interests in Iran, according to council diplomats. But Beijing has begun to engage in direct negotiations, offering some suggestions this week on how the United States should modify its text.

The developments follow a high-level meeting in Washington on Monday between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. After the meeting, U.S. officials said that Obama received a commitment from Hu to continue negotiations on a new sanctions resolution. But the Chinese have yet to agree to endorse any specific measures against Tehran.

Wednesday's meeting at the U.S. mission to the United Nations represents the first time the six powers have begun substantive negotiations on the U.S. text. During a three-hour meeting at the British mission last week, China, Russia and others simply restated their positions on U.N. sanctions.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, voiced frustration with Iran. "I don't think any of us wants to impose sanctions; what we want is to have a diplomatic solution," he said. But "if Iran wants to negotiate, it should start negotiating."

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