Wednesday, March 15, 2006

UN council accord on Iran text eludes major powers

The five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council failed again on Wednesday to reach agreement on a draft text aimed at reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions after a fifth round of negotiations.

"We are still discussing," Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya told Reuters at the close of the hour-long session at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. READ MORE

Russia and China are resisting a proposal from Britain and France -- and backed by the United States -- for a council statement that would express "serious concern" about Iran's nuclear program and urge it to abide by resolutions from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Wang said he did not consider the talks deadlocked, and Russian Ambassador Andrei Denisov said there had been progress although he declined to elaborate.

But Wang said Russia and China still had problems with a proposal that the Vienna-based IAEA be asked to report to the council within 14 days on what progress Iran had made towards meeting the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency's demands.

Both view the reporting requirement as shifting the focus of the Iran dossier to the Security Council, which has the power to later impose sanctions, from the IAEA. They would like any report on Iran's compliance to go directly to the 35-nation IAEA governing board.

The negotiations are now due to shift to the full Security Council on Thursday when all 15 of its members are to meet informally for a second time to discuss the Franco-British draft. Their first informal meeting took place on Tuesday at the French Mission to the United Nations in midtown Manhattan.


The decision to involve the full council followed several days of inconclusive talks among the five permanent members.

The draft also calls on Iran "to re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development" that the IAEA would verify.

It asks Iran to reconsider building a heavy-water nuclear reactor in Arak, which is more suitable for producing fuel for nuclear weapons than a light-water reactor.

It was unclear whether the French, British and Americans would seek a formal council statement or a resolution on Iran.

A council statement needs to be approved by all 15 members, while a resolution requires nine votes in favour and no veto from any of the permanent members. If the impasse continues, the West could try to force Russia and China into the uncomfortable position of having to consider a veto.

"Whether it is a statement or a resolution we haven't decided," Bolton said earlier.

"We're trying to hold the permanent five together first but reality is reality and time is an important factor, given that the Iranians continue to progress towards overcoming their technological difficulties in enriching uranium," he said.

The 10 nonpermanent members of the Security Council, which rotate for two-year terms, are: Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Japan, Tanzania, Congo Republic, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia.