Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Western powers ready new draft resolution on Iran

Western powers were finalizing a draft UN resolution that would legally oblige Iran to comply with UN demands that it freeze uranium enrichment but would not include sanctions.

The 15-member Security Council was set to meet behind closed doors from 3 pm (1900 GMT) to discuss the Iran nuclear crisis, a day after Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany failed to agree on a united response at a meeting of senior officials in Paris.

Western diplomats said France, Britain and Germany -- the three nations that have led Western efforts to persuade Iran not to develop nuclear weapons -- were putting the finishing touches to a draft they hoped to circulate to the full council later in the day.

"We are still finalizing the text, but the objective remains the same: make mandatory the requirement of Iran that was set out in the (March 29) council statement," Justin McKenzie, a spokesman for Britain's UN mission, told AFP.

That non-binding statement gave Iran 30 days to freeze its uranium enrichment and meet all its non-proliferation obligations.

The British diplomat said Britain and France, after close consultations with Germany and the United States, "will be setting out in greater detail the approach we recommend the council take" in response to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed ElBaradei's report.

ElBaradei reported Friday that Iran had failed to comply with UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment, which makes fuel for reactors but can also be the explosive core of an atom bomb.

Western powers are recommending a series of UN resolutions on the standoff under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which can authorize economic sanctions and as a last resort the use of force.

Western diplomats said the proposed initial draft would not call for sanctions but would give "a firm response" to Tehran's defiance. One diplomat said the text may include a deadline of "no longer than 30 days" for Iran to comply.

No text emerged from the Paris talks, which were the first among senior officials of the six powers since the release of the IAEA report on Iran's non-compliance, another diplomat said.

Foreign ministers of the same six countries are to revisit the issue at a meeting in New York next Monday.

Nicholas Burns, the number three in the US State Department, said after the Paris meeting that "all agreed that the Iran nuclear program should be suspended, and agreed to begin Security Council debate and start negotiating a resolution for suspension."

But he also voiced frustration with Russia and China, two of the council's veto-wielding permanent members and close trading partners of Iran, which are adamantly opposed to sanctions against Tehran.

"It's time for countries to take responsibilities, especially those countries that have close relationships with Iran," he said.

US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton also voiced impatience Tuesday and threatened to form a coalition of allies to impose sanctions on Iran outside the UN framework.

If the Security Council is unwilling or unable to impose sanctions on Iran, then "I'm sure we would press ahead to ask other countries or other groups of countries to impose those sanctions," Bolton told a congressional committee in Washington.

Iran retorted by accusing the United States of using bullying tactics.

"We will not give up our undeniable nuclear rights in the face of US bullying. Fake threats will not crack our will," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies.

The United States, backed by Britain, France and Germany, alleges that Iran is on the path to building nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic program, but Tehran rejects the charge and says it has the right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct enrichment.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki insisted Iran would "absolutely" not suspend uranium enrichment work, and he predicted China and Russia would block UN sanctions.



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