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US May Propose Tough UN Nuclear Resolution Against Iran

The United Nations Security Council. Photo courtesy of Mark Garten, UN.
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Mar 22, 2006
The United States may propose a tough UN resolution opening the door to punitive action against Iran's nuclear ambitions, if efforts for a softer statement remain stalled, diplomats told AFP Tuesday. "This would up the ante right away," a Western diplomat said.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday put off a scheduled meeting on the Iranian nuclear crisis to a later date to allow more work on a Franco-British statement to take into account Russian objections.

A second Western diplomat said the United States and Europe "haven't squeezed the Russians onboard" to crack down on an Iranian nuclear program which the West fears hides the secret development of atomic weapons.

The diplomat said the West would take time to convince Russia, a key Iranian ally and trading partner, at least through this week, before possibly "throwing down a draft UN Security Council resolution and forcing them to vote on it."

The European draft statement urges Iran to suspend uranium enrichment as demanded by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) but the five permanent Council members plus Germany had failed to agree Monday on this.

"The meeting in New York was not a good one," a senior European diplomat said in Vienna.

The IAEA had in February reported Iran to the Security Council over fears Tehran may be secretly developing nuclear weapons, despite Iran's insistence that its atomic program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity.

The Council is trying to agree by consensus on a non-binding statement urging Iran to comply with IAEA demands to suspend sensitive nuclear fuel work and cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors.

But Russia wants to avoid punitive Security Council action and to return the issue to the IAEA, which verifies compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but does not have enforcement powers.

If the Council fails to come up with a non-binding statement as a first step, Washington may push for a vote on a resolution that would require Tehran under the UN Charter's Chapter 7 to heed the IAEA calls, diplomats said.

They said such a resolution might pass with China and Russia, which both have veto powers on the Council, abstaining, although a veto by either country is also possible as moving to Chapter 7 is a major move.

Chapter 7 can mandate compliance "with provisional measures" in taking "action with respect to threats to the peace," according to the Charter.

Such a resolution "even with abstentions, would still be a strong step in New York," non-proliferation analyst Mark Fitzpatrick said from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank in London.

"It would set a new legal framework," for pressure on Iran, Fitzpatrick said.

It would also be an important development since Iran is counting on China, another key Iranian trading partner, and Russia to veto such a move, he added.

Britain, meanwhile, is proposing that once a Chapter 7 resolution has been passed, the major powers soften the blow by offering Iran a package of trade and security incentives in return for guarantees Tehran's nuclear program is peaceful.

Diplomats insisted such a proposal had been made, although a senior British official in New York denied this.

Iran meanwhile is about to run a 164-centrifuge cascade to enrich uranium, a step that would increase urgency for UN action against Tehran, diplomats told AFP Monday.

Enriched uranium can be fuel for nuclear power reactors but also in highly refined form the raw material for atom bombs.

Diplomats pointed to upcoming talks between Tehran and Washington that both sides have said would be solely on Iraq as a possible vehicle for a breakthrough on the nuclear issue.

"Why talk only about Iraq. How can you dissociate one (issue) from the other," one diplomat said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links

Why Iran Nuke Talks Postponed
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