Reuters: China’s U.N. ambassador said on Tuesday a U.S. intelligence report’s finding that Iran had halted its nuclear arms program had changed the situation for Security Council consideration of new sanctions on Tehran. By Claudia Parsons
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – China’s U.N. ambassador said on Tuesday a U.S. intelligence report’s finding that Iran had halted its nuclear arms program had changed the situation for Security Council consideration of new sanctions on Tehran.
Iran exulted at Monday’s report saying Tehran had given up the weapons program in 2003, contradicting Bush administration assertions it was building an atomic bomb.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Iran was still in defiance of two Security Council resolutions over its nuclear activities and Western countries intended to press ahead to seek new sanctions by the council.
Asked whether the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) made the prospect of new U.N. sanctions less likely, Chinese Ambassador Guangya Wang told reporters: “I think the council members will have to consider that, because I think we all start from the presumption that now things have changed.”
Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, have generally opposed stronger sanctions on Iran, instead counseling negotiations.
“We want to learn more from our U.S. colleagues,” Wang told reporters outside the council chamber. “Certainly I think we’ll study the content and also think about the implications for the council action.”
Two U.N. sanctions resolutions have been passed so far against Iran, unanimously but after diplomatic wrangling among the five permanent U.N. Security Council members — the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain — plus Germany.
The new report — a consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies — took U.S. friends and foes by surprise after years of accusations from Washington that Tehran is pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.
U.S. WILL PRESS ON WITH SANCTIONS
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said his instructions had not changed since the five permanent Security Council members agreed to transfer negotiations on a new resolution to diplomats in New York as soon as this Friday.
“We have had the political directors’ meeting that took place a few days ago. There was agreement that action will be transferred soon to New York, to the Security Council, that we will work on a resolution together,” Khalilzad told reporters.
“I have no indications to the contrary,” he said.
Khalilzad said the suspension of Iran’s nuclear weapons program in 2003 was at least in part due to international pressure, and that that should encourage world powers to maintain pressure on Tehran to end enrichment.
If the issue is transferred to New York on Friday, it is unclear how long it would take for a resolution to come to a vote in the Security Council.
Russia’s ambassador declined to comment on Iran beyond saying that he did not “entirely share” Khalilzad’s view. Russia says there is no evidence Iran has sought to develop nuclear arms but it has tried to persuade Tehran to ease concerns over its nuclear program.
U.S. President George W. Bush and his allies Britain and France urged continued international pressure on Tehran, with Bush saying on Tuesday that Iran was still developing its nuclear technology and could restart a covert weapons program.
The Security Council discussed its agenda for December on Tuesday but Iran was not mentioned, diplomats said.
The council has demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for power plants or, potentially, nuclear weapons. Iran has refused to do so, saying it is entitled to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip; editing by Stuart Grudgings)