Washington Post: The United States, Russia, China and key European powers agreed Friday to press for a U.N. Security Council resolution that renews previous demands for Iran to halt its enrichment of uranium but includes no new punitive measures to compel Tehran to do so.
The Washington Post
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 27, 2008; Page A04
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 26 — The United States, Russia, China and key European powers agreed Friday to press for a U.N. Security Council resolution that renews previous demands for Iran to halt its enrichment of uranium but includes no new punitive measures to compel Tehran to do so.
The pact does little to break a deadlock between Washington and Moscow over whether to pursue new U.N. sanctions against Iran. But it reflected a desire by both sides to show that they can work together on the issue even amid sharp differences over Russia's incursion into Georgia last month.
The deal was brokered by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany following a breakfast with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The three-paragraph draft calls on Iran "to fully comply, without delay," with Security Council resolutions that demand a halt to some of its most controversial nuclear activities. It also calls on Iran to cooperate with U.N. inspectors.
Iran maintains that it has no intention of developing a nuclear weapon and that it needs to enrich uranium — which potentially could be diverted to a nuclear weapons program — in order to ensure its ability to run a civilian nuclear energy program.
This resolution demonstrates a "show of unity" by key Security Council powers on Iran, said Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations. And British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the accord underscores "our determination to ensure" that Iran lives up to its international obligations. "We look forward to that resolution being passed."
The United States and its European allies had planned to press this week at a ministerial meeting for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran. But Russia and China oppose more sanctions, and the meeting was canceled after Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov decided to withdraw from it.
Lavrov's move came in response to a refusal by the United States and European allies to hold a high-level meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized nations. Those countries have decided to put off meetings of the group, to which Russia belongs, to penalize Moscow for its actions in Georgia.
"We think it's not timely" to consider new sanctions against Iran, Vitaly Churkin, Russia's U.N. ambassador, said Friday. "We think more discussions are necessary with the Iranians. There is still room for diplomacy."
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. arm that monitors Iran's nuclear program, complained last week that Tehran has limited its cooperation recently with an investigation into a possible weapons program.
The six powers have offered Iran a package of incentives, including favorable trade deals and access to nuclear fuel, in exchange for allowing greater scrutiny of its nuclear program.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said separately that she would ask for a Security Council meeting to discuss Iranian threats against Israel. "It is important to take note of the really terrible things that have been said by the Iranian president about the state of Israel," Rice said. "It simply isn't appropriate in civilized company."