U.S., Russia reach deal on new UN Iran resolution
The U.S. and Russia, striking a compromise, led a new UN Security Council effort Friday to condemn Iran's nuclear program that includes no new sanctions.
The brief resolution seeks to reaffirm the three previous ones, which imposed progressively tougher sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program.
It also calls on Tehran "to fully comply, without delay, with its obligations" and meet the requirements of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency.
The council consulted privately for more than an hour Friday afternoon and agreed to hold further talks on the proposal as soon as Monday. It also was briefly discussed earlier in the day at a private meeting of foreign ministers with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the new resolution has the agreement of ministers from the six key players in negotiations on Iran's nuclear program — Russia, the U.S., Britain, France, China and Germany.
The United States, Britain and France have been pressing for a new round of sanctions to step up pressure against Iran for its continuing refusal to suspend uranium enrichment as a prelude to talks on its nuclear program. But Russia and China objected to new sanctions.
The proposed new resolution is a compromise — it offers no new sanctions but includes a tough statement to Iran that Security Council resolutions are legally binding and must be carried out.
"There will be no resolution on sanctions," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. "This is reiteration of the status quo."
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia believes "that more discussions are necessary with Iranians, and that there is still room for diplomacy here."
The U.S. wanted more sanctions, but will settle for a strong statement.
"Unity of purpose on the council is a very important signal to send out," U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said. "It's been six months since the previous resolution was adopted. ... Council silence, we think, would send the wrong signal."
Sanctions in place
Existing UN-backed sanctions against Iran include an embargo on proliferation-sensitive nuclear and ballistic missile programs, an export ban on arms and related material "targeted" sanctions on certain people, banks and other entities through travel bans and asset freezes.
Even without fresh sanctions, French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said Iran will become "more and more isolated" if it ignores another UN resolution.
Russia on Tuesday scuttled high-level talks on imposing new sanctions on Iran that had been set for Thursday between the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany. Even sanctions opponent China had agreed to the meeting.
U.S. officials, including Rice, sought to downplay the move, saying the time wasn't right for the session. But they had previously said such a gathering would be useful and necessary to get a fourth Security Council sanctions resolution on Iran.
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful and designed to produce nuclear energy, but the U.S. and Europeans suspect Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Tehran needs the ability to produce nuclear fuel because it cannot rely on other nations to supply enriched uranium to the Islamic regime's planned reactors.
Miliband said the new resolution would reaffirm the six countries' determination to continue pursuing their twin-track strategy — offering a package of benefits to Iran if it suspends enrichment and pursuing sanctions if it refuses.
"We look forward to that resolution being passed, and we also look forward to full engagement by the government of Iran with the very significant offer that is on the table to them," he said.