Iran sanctions vote at U.N. seen weeks away

Updated: 2008-01-29 11:32

UNITED NATIONS - It will take weeks before the UN Security Council is ready to vote on a new round of sanctions against Iran proposed last week by six world powers, council diplomats said on Monday.

Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China circulated a draft proposal on Friday for new U.N. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. The text calls for asset freezes and mandatory travel bans for specific Iranian officials and vigilance on all banks in Iran.

Western countries say Iran's refusal to comply with UN Security Council demands that it stop enriching uranium supports their suspicion that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and enrichment a sovereign right.

On Monday, the five permanent council members met with the 10 nonpermanent members to discuss the sanctions proposal and prepare for the drafting of a formal sanctions resolution. China's envoy said this process could take weeks.

"It will take maybe a few weeks," deputy Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, Liu Zhenmin, told reporters ahead of the meeting at the British mission. He gave no further details.

A US official said Washington had been pushing for a new resolution for many months and wanted to move more quickly. But European diplomats said they wanted to move at a slow enough pace to ensure a unanimous vote for a new round of sanctions.

A US intelligence report released last month said Iran had a nuclear weapons program but abandoned it in 2003. Several Western diplomats said the proposed penalties, which they described as a mild step up from previous sanctions, were the best they could do given the surprising new US intelligence.

Colin Keating, head of the Security Council Report, an independent organization that monitors the council, said there was no doubt the resolution would be approved. He said the new sanctions were moderate and would not split the council, though South Africa and Indonesia might want to amend some language.


South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said his country would like to wait for the upcoming progress report by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations' Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, on inspections in Iran.

"I think the IAEA report is very important because they are ... the experts," he said. "Let's see what they have to say."

South Africa is a key member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a bloc of developing countries that has resisted the idea of forcing Tehran to halt uranium enrichment. They worry that wealthier countries want a monopoly on enriching uranium fuel.

ElBaradei is expected to submit his next report to the Security Council in the third week of February. Several diplomats have said the IAEA chief plans to report that he has made significant progress in clarifying outstanding questions about Iran's past nuclear program.

The spokesman for the US mission to the United Nations, Richard Grenell, said the second sanctions resolution, approved by the council in March 2007, called for the consideration of further measures within 60 days if Tehran kept enriching.

"Resolution 1747 called for suspension and the facts are that there has been no suspension," Grenell said. "We think the situation calls for Security Council action."

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the IAEA report was significant, but added that council demands were also crucial.

"The track of Iran's cooperation with the IAEA is very important and I hope it will continue," he said. "But ... there is another side of the story, which has to do with certain requirements of the Security Council, and we need to be mindful of that as well."

He appeared to be referring to the council's demand for Tehran to freeze enrichment as a confidence-building measure.

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