Reuters: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she hoped the United Nations would vote within weeks to slap more sanctions on Iran and she urged allies to be more aggressive in punishing Tehran. By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she hoped the United Nations would vote within weeks to slap more sanctions on Iran and she urged allies to be more aggressive in punishing Tehran.
Foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, agreed last month on the draft of a new sanctions resolution against Iran over its nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at building an atomic bomb and Tehran says is for power generation.
That draft is now being circulated among the other members of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, but countries like South Africa and Libya are balking at the new resolution and would like to wait.
“I would hope that within a few weeks, at least, we would be able to get a vote, an affirmative vote,” Rice told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
Washington had wanted the resolution passed at the latest before mid-March parliamentary elections in Iran.
The United States had been pushing for a tougher third round of sanctions against Iran, but gave in to Russian and Chinese objections and finally agreed to a watered-down version of the original draft, which targeted more Iranian banks.
“They are not as strong as the United States would have liked, but they have the effect of reminding Iran that it is isolated from the international community,” Rice said.
She pointed to a new provision in the latest resolution that demanded the inspection of Iranian cargo as well as additional asset freezes on some Iranians.
“Again, it is not as strong as we would want, but it opens a new direction, which would be very important,” she added.
Rice urged U.S. allies to take their own unilateral punitive measures outside of the U.N. Security Council, pointing to U.S. sanctions that have targeted the finances of key Iranian officials involved in the nuclear program.
“We are going after the finances and we are going to keep going after their finances. We want our friends around the world to be more aggressive on that side,” she said.
But international appetite to punish Iran further for its nuclear program lost some momentum after a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, last December found that Iran had halted its weapons program in 2003.
Rice conceded the intelligence report caused people to “relax a little too much.”
“But that should never have been the reading of the NIE because the piece of this that is really dangerous is the enrichment and reprocessing activity and we have gotten people gathered again around that recognition.”