Iran Nuclear NewsU.N. council vote on Iran sanctions delayed again

U.N. council vote on Iran sanctions delayed again

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Reuters: France and Britain have again delayed a U.N. Security Council vote on a third round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program in an effort to win over skeptics, diplomats said on Friday. By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – France and Britain have again delayed a U.N. Security Council vote on a third round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program in an effort to win over skeptics, diplomats said on Friday.

A U.N. spokeswoman said the Security Council would meet to discuss Iran at 11 a.m. on Monday and diplomats said Britain and France would call a vote on a draft resolution which was finalized on Friday and provided to Reuters by a diplomat.

U.S. and British diplomats had earlier said the vote would probably be held on Saturday but had left open the possibility that it could be pushed back a few days to allow time for more negotiations with four reluctant council members.

The resolution will tighten existing sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on Iran because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which creates fuel for nuclear power stations but also for atomic weapons, as demanded by the council in three previous resolutions.

Iran denies Western allegations that it is amassing the capability to produce nuclear weapons and says its atomic ambitions are limited to peacefully generating electricity. Tehran has said the case for sanctions lacks any legal basis and that it has no intention to comply with the resolution.

The five permanent council members — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — and Germany, which is not on the council, agreed in Berlin on January 22 on a draft text outlining a third round of sanctions against Tehran.

Washington had hoped for a swift vote on the sanctions text but negotiations have dragged on for over a month, mainly due to resistance from four nonpermanent members of the 15-nation council — South Africa, Libya, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The resolution is backed by the five permanent members and six others, meaning its adoption is not in doubt.

UNANIMITY MAY BE DIFFICULT

Two previous sanctions resolutions were approved unanimously in December 2006 and March 2007. Diplomats say the European co-sponsors of the resolution are not optimistic that the third one will have the support of all 15 council members.

But they will be using the weekend to try to win over the four skeptics, which diplomats say have a variety of reservations about the resolution. They could vote against the resolution or abstain.

Diplomats said the final version included some suggestions made by Vietnam in an effort to secure a “yes” vote from Hanoi. The text had few changes from the previous version but did include language stressing the key role of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

This was something all four skeptics had wanted.

The final text also includes language dealing with South Africa’s concerns about a paragraph requiring states to search air and sea vessels with dubious cargo. It says searches must comply with international sea and aviation treaties and laws.

Diplomats said it was unclear if the amendments would be enough to satisfy Vietnam and South Africa.

British Ambassador John Sawers told reporters on Thursday that he wanted the resolution to have “as much support as is possible.” But even if there are abstentions or “no” votes, it will be legally binding once adopted, Sawers said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy met his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki during an official visit to the country on Friday and diplomats said the two men discussed Iran.

It was unclear if the meeting had helped persuade the South Africans to back the resolution, which is co-sponsored by Germany, France and Britain, they said. South Africa voted for the second round of sanctions in March 2007.

“There will be meetings over the weekend and discussions between the various capitals ahead of the vote,” said one diplomat. “We’ll have to see how those discussions turn out.”

Libya’s ambassador, Giadalla Ettalhi, indicated on Monday that he would probably vote against the resolution. Indonesia’s envoy says he is not convinced more sanctions is a good idea.

(Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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