Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Western powers draft text on Iran for UN

Evelyn Leopold, Reuters:
The United States, Britain and France prepared on Wednesday to brief the U.N. Security Council on a draft resolution aimed at pressuring Iran to curb its nuclear program, but faced an uphill task in gaining support from Russia and China.

The three intended to distribute a text of their proposed resolution to all 15 council members at the closed meeting. It would give Iran another chance to obey international calls to stop uranium enrichment, which the Western states fear could be used to build nuclear weapons.

Russia and China, which could kill any resolution by using their veto power, are reluctant to endorse anything that might be seen as a step toward sanctions or military action against Iran, although the draft will not threaten either measure. READ MORE

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the council meeting would help "to apply greater pressure on Iran."

The plan was to introduce a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which would be legally binding on Iran under international law.

Iran would be given a deadline to comply but the measure would not threaten any action. Chapter 7 allows for sanctions or even military action but a separate resolution is necessary to specify either step.

So far, little headway has been made with Russia and China. The foreign ministers the five permanent Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany, are to meet on Iran in New York on Monday.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is legal and peaceful.

Its officials argue that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, after three years of scrutiny, has not found a weapons program.

"We will not give up our legitimate right (to nuclear technology) because of America's bullying and pressure," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, according to Iran's state television.

"America is trying to impose its policies on its allies by humiliating them and bullying," he said. "Iran's nuclear issue can only be resolved through diplomatic channels."


The resolution was expected to declare Iran's nuclear program a threat to "international peace and security" -- a phrase that frequently used in council documents.

As a follow-up, the Western allies have considered targeted sanctions to ratchet up the pressure if Iran continues to defy the council.

These could include a ban on export of technology with civilian and military uses, a travel ban on Iranian officials and a possible ban on arms sales, but not oil sanctions, said Nicholas Burns, a senior State Department official.

Burns spoke in Paris where senior foreign ministry officials of the five permanent council members and Germany held a strategy meeting on Tuesday but made no headway.

He expressed frustration with Russia and China, saying it was time for countries with close ties to Iran "to take responsibilities."

Russia and China fear too much pressure on Iran would be self-defeating or precipitate an oil crisis. They also worry also the United States could use a tough council resolution to justify military action.

In Tehran, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said on Tuesday Iran had succeeded in enriching uranium to 4.8 percent, a higher level of purity than it had previously stated.

(additional reporting from Parisa Hafezi in Tehran)