Tuesday, May 02, 2006

U.S. and Europe Draft Iran Resolution

Elaine Sciolino, The New York Times:
The United States, Britain and France have drafted a binding Security Council resolution requiring Iran to stop key nuclear activities, but Russia and China are already resisting, officials involved in the negotiations said today.

The Americans and the Europeans want to move swiftly against Iran, and to that end, the resolution will be introduced in New York on Wednesday or Thursday, according to R. Nicolas Burns, the under secretary of state who has led American diplomatic efforts concerning Iran.

"The Security Council has no option now but to proceed under Chapter 7," Mr. Burns told reporters in Paris, referring to the article in the United Nations Charter that makes resolutions mandatory under international law and opens the way to sanctions or even military action.

He predicted a long, drawn-out process that could take up to two months. Mr. Burns was in Paris for preliminary talks with the political directors of the four other nations that along with the United States are permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, China, France and Russia and with Germany. READ MORE

The talks were designed to pave the way for a meeting of their foreign ministers hosted in New York on May 9 by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It would be part of an American and European-led campaign to forge a common position against Iran after it failed to comply with an informal Security Council deadline last Friday to suspend uranium enrichment.

The draft resolution, which has not been made public, expresses "serious concern" that Iran has not complied with its international commitments and calls on it to stop producing enriched uranium, which can have both peaceful and military uses, and return to the negotiating table, according to officials involved in drafting in.

In its current form, the resolution does not include a fixed deadline for compliance or a specific threat of action against Iran if it does not comply, the officials said.

Iran, which maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful, has remained steadfast in its position that it will never give up its right to enrich uranium, and in the past month has instead accelerated that program.

In Tehran, Iran's Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki expressed confidence today that both Russia and China, two of Iran's most important trading powers, will veto any Security Council resolution that imposes economic sanctions against Iran.

"There is a very wrong assumption held by some that the West can do anything it wants through the Security Council," Mr. Mottaki told the hardline Tehran daily Kayhan.

But Mr. Burns stressed that sanctions would only come later. He said that oil and gas sanctions were not under discussion, but predicted in "a month or two or three" there would be international support for sanctions. He mentioned technology imports with civilian and military uses, a travel ban on Iranian officials and a ban on all arms sales as likely targets.

Also in Iran today, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the director of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, announced that Iran had succeeded in enriching uranium to 4.8 percent, a higher level of purity than it had previously stated. He added that Iran would not enrich further, because, he said, "this level suffices for making nuclear fuel." In its report last Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that samples taken inside Iran tend to confirm the enrichment level of 3.6 percent declared by Iran as the level needed to make electricity.

Although Mr. Aghazadeh's claim can be seen as provocative, it is within the bounds of what is used in light water reactors, which is generally considered less than 5 percent enrichment. Uranium must be about 90 percent pure for use in bomb-making.

In recent weeks, Iran has responded to threats of punitive measures against it with threats of its own. Today, Gen. Mohammad Ebrahim Dehghani, a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards, added his voice, and was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying that if the United States attacked Iran militarily, "the first place we target will be Israel."

The Americans, together with the French and the Europeans, are convinced that isolation of Iran by the international community is the only way to stop it from moving forward with what Washington is convinced is a plan to make nuclear weapons.

The Russians and Chinese, by contrast, argue that the American and European initiative to punish Iran in the Security Council lacks a strategic goal and will only escalate the crisis with Iran.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for example, has publicly warned that sanctions would prove counterproductive.

In Ottawa on Monday, Mr. Lavrov once again floated a Russian proposal to enrich uranium for use by Iran inside Russia. "The joint venture will guarantee that all the needs of Iran's peaceful nuclear sector will be met," Mr. Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Interfax.

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has publicly rejected the Russian proposal, although other Iranian officials insist the plan is still being considered.

Iran will be at the top of the agenda when German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with President George Bush in Washington on Wednesday.

Ms. Merkel is expected to raise with the Bush administration the Russian plan to enrich uranium for Iran in Russia and ship it back to Iran, German officials said.

And although Ms. Merkel takes a line similar to that of her American and other European counterparts, some of her senior advisors have called for more flexibility.

The German defense minister, Franz Josef Jung, for example, said in a recent interview that it would be difficult to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran unless there were direct talks between Washington and Tehran.

"This is also our request to Washington: that it begins direct talks and from there reach results," Mr. Jung said. Germanys foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, urged Washington to begin direct talks with Iran during his visit to the United States last month.

But in his remarks to reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Burns ruled out such an approach, stressing that isolation, not engagement, was the only acceptable approach.

Judy Dempsey contributed reporting from Berlin for this article.