Reuters: Major powers sought on Wednesday to negotiate final differences on a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran, but the United States and China said they were not ready yet to approve a text. By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Major powers sought on Wednesday to negotiate final differences on a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran, but the United States and China said they were not ready yet to approve a text.
The measure, which includes an embargo on weapons Iran could export, would penalize Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, which Western nations suspect Tehran is mastering so it can produce atom bombs.
But Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is considering addressing the 15 Security Council members in New York the day a resolution is adopted, said his country would not yield to pressure.
“If you think … you can make the Iranian nation surrender, you are wrong,” he told a rally in central Iran, broadcast live on state television.
U.N. ambassadors from the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, the five permanent Council members with veto power, as well as Germany, which holds the European Union presidency, have been negotiating since March 1.
But Wednesday’s session was called off after China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya on Wednesday refused to join the others because the meeting was at Britain’s U.N. mission rather than at U.N. headquarters, where he thought it should be held.
Council members had demanded they be shown a text on Wednesday, regardless of whether the six had reached agreement. But Wang said: “I am not sure we are at that stage yet,” making it unlikely there would be a vote this week.
U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff agreed, saying “I don’t think we are ready yet for distribution. There is no document I am aware of that could be shared.”
The new resolution would follow one adopted in December that imposed trade sanctions on sensitive nuclear materials and technology, and froze assets of key Iranian individuals and companies. Iran ignored a February 21 deadline to suspend enrichment or face further steps.
Wang again objected to a list of Iranian officials, groups and companies subject to an asset freeze and other sanctions, saying the three-page list was too long.
“The main objective is our concern about Iranian nuclear and missile activities,” Wang told reporters. “So there is no need to expand beyond that area.”
As an example, he said Iran’s state-owned Bank Sepah, which is on the list, “has transactions in many other fields so some language is needed to make the clear distinction.”
For Western nations, particularly the United States, the goal is precisely to broaden the sanctions to the economic field and not just nuclear work.
Proposals for the resolution also include a mandatory arms embargo on conventional weapons Iran may export and a call to governments and international financial institutions to voluntarily restrict new loans to Iran.
But a mandatory travel ban on key Iranian officials is no longer in the text. Nor are restrictions on credits to firms doing business in Iran, diplomats said.
The sanctions would be suspended if Iran, which insists its aim is nuclear power generation, complied and returned to negotiations.
Despite Ahmadinejad’s comments, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his government favored a diplomatic solution. Iran could boost cooperation with the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog if current sanctions proceedings at the Security Council were dropped, he said during a visit to Slovenia.
“We do believe within three, four weeks we can reach some comprehensive solution,” Mottaki said.
That was unlikely to satisfy Western powers demanding Iran suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for broader negotiations which they say could lead to major trade and diplomatic benefits for the country.
(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Tehran, Marja Novak in Ljubljana and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations))