Reuters: China on Friday offered a compromise on a U.N. statement aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions while Russia opposed a big role for the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions. By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – China on Friday offered a compromise on a U.N. statement aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions while Russia opposed a big role for the Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions.
At issue is a provision in the proposed text that would ask the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency to report to the council on Iran’s compliance.
Russia and to an extent China want the IAEA chief to report to his 35-nation board first, which would diminish the role of the council.
But China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters, shortly before all 15 council members were meeting on the Iran crisis, that he had proposed the report be given to “both the IAEA and the Security Council.”
But he said that Russia and China still had differences with a draft statement, backed by the United States, Britain and France, that expresses “serious concern” about Iran’s nuclear program and asks the IAEA to report on whether Tehran has complied with its demands. It does not threaten punitive measures.
Russia, diplomats said wants IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the IAEA governing board. The board could then pass on his report to the Security Council.
Moscow’s U.N. ambassador, Andrei Denisov told reporters, “The crux of the idea is that the leading agency is the IAEA.”
“It must pilot the whole process” while the Security Council should remained “informed,” Denisov said. But he added, “The work is done in the IAEA.”
Still, ambassadors said they were making progress. “The feeling among colleagues is that text is a good basis for moving forward,” British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said.
He agreed that the main responsibility “has always been and should be with the IAEA” and that all would get the report.
“But what the United Kingdom will not accept is that the Security Council should be fettered and that it’s consideration of the subject or of a report should depend upon prior discussion in the (IAEA) governing board.”
Both Russia and China have expressed fears that council involvement could result in a cut off by Iran of IAEA inspectors. They also are also apprehensive that council action would escalate and lead to possible sanctions.
The timeline on reporting is also an issue of contention. The Western powers would like two weeks but many other council members say that is too short.
Wang suggested 30 days or 45 days or even until June. Qatar also suggested June.
A statement needs the approval of all 15 council members while a resolution requires a minimum of nine votes and no veto from the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
The draft statement also calls on Iran to suspend uranium-enrichment efforts, which the West believes are a cover for bomb-making. Iran insists its research is to produce nuclear energy, but the IAEA is concerned that Tehran might be seeking atomic weapons.
No decision is expected until next week after senior foreign affairs officials from the five powers and Germany meet in New York on Monday to discuss future strategy.
Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, will represent Washington. Other participants include foreign ministry political directors John Sawers of Britain, Michael Schaefer of Germany, Stanislas de la Boulaye of France.
Russia is sending its deputy foreign minister, Sergei Kislyak, and China will be represented by Zhang Yan, its ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna.