UNITED NATIONS - Six powers seeking new sanctions against Iran hoped to
persuade all 15 nations on the UN Security Council to back the proposed punitive
France's UN Ambassador Jean-Marc
de La Sabliere said that "a large majority" of the nations support the
resolution drawn up by the United States and its European allies - Britain,
France and Germany - along with Russia and China.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivers a
speech in a public gathering at the city of Mashhad, 540 miles (900
kilometers) northeast of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, March 21,
"I think we will be in a position to make some concrete proposals and changes
in order to reach a unanimous Security Council," he said after talks late
Wednesday in New York. The full council was scheduled to meet again late
Full agreement is important because it would give the vote more weight.
The six nations fear Tehran wants enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons
and have demanded it cease production. Iran has ignored them, despite the
Security Council's first set of sanctions in December.
Iran's top leader said Wednesday that his country will respond with "illegal
actions" if the council imposes still more sanctions.
"Until today, what we have done has been in accordance with international
regulations," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. "But if they take illegal actions, we
too can take illegal actions and will do so."
He did not elaborate on what those actions might be, but Iran is a signatory
to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty under which UN nuclear officials inspect
its facilities. Some lawmakers and clerics have urged the government to respond
to sanctions by withdrawing from the treaty.
Iran says it will never give up its right under the treaty to enrich uranium,
insisting it needs alternative energy sources for when its oil reserves run out.
The process can produce fuel for a reactor or fissile material for a nuclear
"If they want to treat us with threats and enforcement of coercion and
violence, undoubtedly they must know that the Iranian nation and authorities
will use all their capacities to strike enemies that attack," Khamenei said in a
speech marking the start of the Persian New Year.
The latest sanctions would ban Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of
28 additional individuals and organizations involved in the country's nuclear
and missile programs.
The package also calls for travel restrictions on people subject to
sanctions, on arms sales to Iran, and on new financial assistance or loans to
the Iranian government.
The existing sanctions ban countries from providing Iran with materials and
technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs, and freeze
assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
The U.S., Britain and France are hoping for a vote by the end of the week,
but that could be difficult. South Africa, which holds the rotating Security
Council presidency, wants extensive changes - including eliminating the arms
embargo - and a 90-day hiatus on all sanctions.
The U.S. and its allies made clear Wednesday they would not agree to South
Africa's proposed "time-out," a suggestion Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones
Parry called "totally perverse."
Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff indicated Washington also would reject
a request by Indonesia and Qatar for the resolution to call for a nuclear-free
Middle East, as that implicates Israel.
But Russia's UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow regarded the Indonesian
and Qatar proposals "positively."
"I think there is general understanding in the Security Council that
unanimity is going to be very important," Churkin said.
In a related development, European and U.S. officials who declined to be
named said Tuesday that Moscow has told Tehran it would not ship fuel for the
Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran until Tehran freezes
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied that Wednesday.
"It's not the first time that we are seeing such an unscrupulous approach
aimed at driving a wedge between us and Iran," he told lawmakers in the lower
house of parliament.
Russia has said plans to supply fuel for Bushehr this month were called off
because of the failure of Iran to make its payments.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked to speak to the Security
Council just before it votes.
In his own New Year's address, he accused world's powers of waging
"psychological warfare ... to block our nation's progress."
Iran has offered to provide guarantees that its nuclear program won't be
diverted toward weapons.