Friday, May 05, 2006

US challenges Russia to break Iran draft impasse

Evelyn Leopold, Reuters:
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton on Friday challenged Russia and China to come up with legal alternatives to break the impasse on a draft U.N. resolution ordering Iran to suspend its nuclear program.

Russia and China object to the use of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, usually invoked by the U.N. Security Council for peacekeeping missions and other legally binding actions. That provision also allows for sanctions and even war but a separate resolution is required to specify either step.

Despite objections from Moscow and Beijing, the United States, Britain and France introduced a draft Security Council resolution on Wednesday that would compel Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities under Chapter 7.

The draft resolution does not call for sanctions or any other punitive action if Iran does not comply, but the United States has made clear that sanctions would be the next step.

"One of the issues we are discussing is what constitutes a mandatory resolution, whether Security Council resolutions that are not under Chapter 7 are mandatory or not," Bolton said.

"The issue whether there is another way that is acceptable is something that we have asked the Russians and the Chinese to provide. We are waiting to hear how one might do that," he said.

Bolton said there was a difference among international lawyers on whether any Security Council resolution was legally binding or just those under Chapter 7.

Russia and China, which have veto power, fear too much pressure on Iran would be self-defeating or precipitate an oil crisis. Both oppose sanctions and worry the United States would use a Chapter 7 resolution to justify military action.

Russia's new U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, declined to comment on specifics of the resolution but said Moscow wanted the Security Council to react.


"The best way to support Iran is for Iran to listen very carefully to what the international community has to say," Churkin said.

"We are looking for ways to make a meaningful resolution which all the members of the Security Council could live with and send a meaningful signal to Iran, and therefore advance the prospect of a political and diplomatic solution."

Bolton would like an agreement before foreign ministers from Germany and the five permanent Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- meet on Iran late on Monday.

To this end, the entire 15-member Security Council is expected to engage in consultations on the resolution on Saturday afternoon after another round of talks among the five permanent members. READ MORE

"It's too early to say if we can find an agreement," France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, told reporters. "But it seems to me that we have made some steps toward it. A lot of work remains to be done."

The Security Council in late March issued a nonbinding statement asking Iran to abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can lead to a nuclear weapon or produce fuel to generate electricity.

The council asked for a report within 30 days from Mohammed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who said last Friday that Iran had not complied.

Iranian officials note that the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has not found a weapons program after three years of scrutiny and does not consider Iran's program an imminent security threat.