Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Nations Closer on Iran Resolution Deal

Edith Lederer, Forbes:
The United States and key European nations moved closer to agreement with Russia Tuesday on a Security Council resolution that would give Iran about a month to suspend uranium enrichment or face economic and diplomatic sanctions.

During two negotiating sessions, the two sides narrowed their differences and the six participants sent the new text to their capitals for final approval of the changes. Another meeting of the five permanent council members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - and Germany was scheduled on Wednesday. READ MORE

The resolution is a follow-up to a July 12 agreement by the foreign ministers of the six countries who have been the main players on the Iranian nuclear issue to refer Tehran back to the Security Council for not responding to an offer of incentives to suspend enrichment.

The ministers asked that council members adopt a resolution making Iran's suspension of enrichment activities mandatory. Tehran said last week it would reply Aug. 22 to the Western incentive package, but the council decided to go ahead with a resolution and not wait for Iran's response.

"We are close to an agreement," said France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the current council president. "We are making progress."

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin agreed that the six countries were "much closer" to agreement. "I just want to keep my fingers crossed, but I think we have been making good progress," he said.

The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is purely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity, not a bomb.

The original draft resolution, proposed by Britain, France and Germany and backed by the U.S., would make binding earlier demands from the council and the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran stop uranium enrichment.

If Iran did not comply, the council would follow up under Article 41 of Chapter 7 in the U.N. Charter, which allows punishments that do not involve the use of armed force, such as economic sanctions, banning air travel or breaking diplomatic relations.

De La Sabliere said the current text makes mandatory "the suspension of all related enrichment activities including research and development." It then says that "after a period of time, around one month ... if Iran doesn't comply with the resolution ... then measures will be taken under Article 41 of Chapter 7," he said.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton started out the day warning that the differences with the Russians were so great that they might have to be referred to foreign ministers of the six countries. But he was much more optimistic after the second negotiating session ended late Tuesday.

"The words that are in there now, to our satisfaction, make clear that Iran is bound mandatorily to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities," Bolton said. "I think we're at a very propitious moment, and we'll know for sure tomorrow."

Associated Press Writer Nick Wadhams contributed to this report from the United Nations.