Thursday, August 17, 2006

US says Iran must expect swift U.N. action

Sue Pleming, Reuters:
The United States expects the United Nations to act swiftly next month and consider sanctions against Iran if it does not drop its nuclear program, said a senior State Department official on Thursday.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who handles much of the Iran portfolio at the State Department, said he expected the U.N. Security Council would "take up its responsibilities" and impose sanctions if Tehran did not stop its enrichment program.

"We have an agreement with Russia and China and with the other members of the (U.N. Security) Council that we will go to Chapter 7 sanctions (if Iran does not comply)," Burns told reporters. READ MORE

Burns was reacting to comments from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said on Thursday his country could not abandon its nuclear program while the United States was developing new atomic bombs every year.

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is developing a nuclear bomb and accuse it of hiding its research for the past 18 years. Tehran denies the charge. Washington has also accused Iran of backing the Hizbollah guerrilla group and exacerbating the conflict between Lebanon and Israel.

The United Nations passed a resolution on July 31 under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear activities by the end of August or face sanctions. Article 41 refers to economic sanctions.

"It is very clear what Iran needs to do. We would want to move very quickly in the event that Iran does not give an answer to the Security council and does not comply with the condition clearly enunciated by the Security Council," said Burns.

"I think we would want to move very quickly in the first part of September toward a debate in the Security Council about sanctions. They will be well deserved as this has gone on a long time," he added.

While Russia and China voted in favor of the U.N. resolution, both nations have in the past been reluctant to impose sanctions. Moscow made clear late last month that the sanctions provisions meant the council would have a "discussion" on punitive measures.

Iran has set itself an August 22 deadline to respond to a demand by six world powers that Tehran scrap its enrichment program in return for economic and other incentives. Iran has so far shown no signs it will accept.

Burns called the August 22 deadline a "mythical date", adding that Ahmadinejad's comments that his country would continue with enrichment were "just not going to be good enough."

"We have given Iran every opportunity to comply and it is not a mystery to the Iranians what has to happen. I think Iran should know exactly what is going to happen," he said.