Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New U.N. Draft on Iran Softens Condemnation

Warren Hoge, The New York Times:
European and American diplomats circulated a new draft statement to the Security Council on Tuesday evening that weakens language condemning Iran's nuclear program but still calls on Tehran to abandon uranium enrichment activities, which the West believes are intended to make weapons.

The new draft, written by Britain and France and supported by the United States, eliminates or softens elements in earlier drafts that had raised objections from China and Russia.

The three Western nations hope the new version can be adopted Wednesday, a day before the foreign ministers of the five permanent Council members and Germany meet in Berlin to discuss strategy on Iran.

"We feel a sense of urgency," said John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, pointing out that it has been three weeks since Iran's case was delivered to the Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency, United Nations nuclear watchdog based in Vienna.

Negotiations to reach consensus on the relatively mild Security Council action of a nonbinding presidential statement have faltered over Chinese and Russian objections to language that they argue lays the groundwork for taking tougher action like sanctions, which they both oppose.

One of the changes in the text is a watering down of a phrase calling Iran's actions a possible "threat to international peace and security," a term that Beijing and Moscow said established a pretext for sanctions.

The new version simply notes the Council's "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security."

The revised text also drops any mention of specific charges and demands against Iran, and instead refers to resolutions of the nuclear agency that incorporate them.

In another modification, it now requests a report back from the director of the nuclear agency on Iran's compliance with the Security Council statement in 30 days instead of the 14 days in the original text. READ MORE

China had suggested a time frame of four to six weeks, and Russia had spoken of more than two months.

Mr. Bolton acknowledged that the wording disagreements might be difficult for most people to understand. "But they are important points about the role of the Security Council and the I.A.E.A., and it's important to get it right because we want to send a clear message to Iran," he said.