Reuters: Russia, backed by China, blocked agreement on Monday on a U.N. Security Council statement aimed at quashing Iran’s nuclear ambitions despite a ministerial meeting on Tehran’s atomic programs, diplomats said.
By Evelyn Leopold and Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia, backed by China, blocked agreement on Monday on a U.N. Security Council statement aimed at quashing Iran’s nuclear ambitions despite a ministerial meeting on Tehran’s atomic programs, diplomats said.
Senior foreign affairs officials from Germany and the five veto-holding Security Council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — met for more than four hours to exchange information on how to handle Iran.
Their U.N. ambassadors joined them for discussions on a draft statement the Security Council has been unable to issue for nearly two weeks telling Iran to stop uranium-enrichment efforts the West believes are a cover for bomb making.
Still, Nicholas Burns, the U.N. undersecretary of state, told reporters after the meeting, “We remain convinced that we will see a presidential statement. It just may take a couple more days.”
Both Russia and China are wary of action by the Security Council, which can impose sanctions, fearing threats might escalate and prompt Iran to cut all contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
Envoys close to the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Russia was toughest on provisions in a draft statement and that China backed Moscow.
France and Britain, authors of the draft statement, will take “another look at that text to see if we can refine it a little bit more,” said Britain’s U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, whose mission hosted the talks.
The full 15-member council consults late on Tuesday.
China’s U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, was optimistic but his comments indicated no deal was reached yet.
“There are a number of areas where we have common points and these will be narrowed in the days ahead,” he said. “We agreed to continue discussing it.”
Nevertheless, Burns said the group had common aims.
“All agreed that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and is out of compliance with its international commitments,” he said. “All agreed Iran is traveling down the road toward enrichment. All agreed that we should stay united, stay together, to send one message.”
Envoys emerging from the talks said there had been no firm proposals from Britain and others on the next step.
The West has considered a resolution under mandatory Chapter 7 provisions of the U.N. Charter if Iran does not comply but only after a statement is adopted.
A statement needs the consent of all 15 council members while a resolution requires nine votes in favor and no veto from a permanent member. However, if there is no agreement on a statement, the Western powers could turn the draft into a resolution and dare Russia and China to veto.
Under a November 2004 agreement with Britain, France and Germany, negotiators for the European Union, Iran agreed to freeze any uranium conversion, enrichment and reprocessing activities in return for economic and political rewards.
That deal broke down last year and Iran restarted uranium conversion in August. The IAEA board agreed to report the issue to the Security Council, which received a dossier on March 8.
On the statement, Russia and China have objected to a section of the draft setting a two-week deadline for the IAEA to report whether Tehran has stopped enrichment activities, saying it is too short.
The Western powers, at the suggestion of China, also revised a text on Friday, saying that Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA, would submit a progress report on Iran to the Security Council and the 35-member IAEA board at the same time. Earlier only the council was mentioned.
In addition to Burns attending the Monday session were political directors John Sawers of Britain, Michael Schaefer of Germany and Stanislas de la Boulaye of France. Also Sergei Kislyak, a Russian deputy foreign minister and China arms control director, Zhang Yan.
(Additional reporting by Dan Trotta)