Reuters: With no clear sign the United States can win U.N. support for sanctions against Iran, the Bush administration said on Tuesday it could work instead with like-minded nations to punish Tehran for its nuclear programs. By Vicki Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With no clear sign the United States can win U.N. support for sanctions against Iran, the Bush administration said on Tuesday it could work instead with like-minded nations to punish Tehran for its nuclear programs.
The United States, which has its own sanctions on the Islamic republic, is lobbying for the United Nations Security Council to impose international sanctions on Iran but faces resistance from veto holders Russia and China.
“If for whatever reason the council couldn’t fulfill its responsibilities, then I think it would be incumbent on us, and I’m sure we would press ahead to ask other countries or other groups of countries to impose those sanctions,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told a House of Representatives government reform subcommittee.
Diplomats have said the United States could seek to persuade Iran’s European trade partners to sanction Tehran if it fails to win support for wider sanctions at the council.
Under sharp questioning from Democrats who said President George W. Bush appeared intent on war with Iran, Bolton dismissed as “fiction” news reports that U.S. covert forces were in Iran. He said Bush was focused on diplomatic remedies.
Washington says Iran is pursuing nuclear arms under cover of a program to produce electricity, while Tehran insists it wants only to fulfill civilian energy needs.
Bolton and U.N. ambassadors from France and Britain are expected to circulate a new draft Security Council resolution this week. It would require Tehran to abandon uranium enrichment, invoking Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, making the demand binding under international law.
‘MOVE AHEAD VERY QUICKLY’
“I think we are going to move ahead very quickly with our Chapter 7 resolution on Iran, and have consultations quickly,” Bolton told reporters after returning to U.N. headquarters to meet with French and British diplomats.
The draft would be shown to Security Council members “within a day or two,” he said. The 15-nation council plans its next closed-door talks on Iran’s nuclear program on Wednesday.
In Washington, Bolton raised the prospect that Russia and China could abstain rather than veto the Chapter 7 resolution.
While it would be desirable to have a unanimous Security Council, “it’s not impossible that we would proceed without them,” he said.
As the Bush administration presses for U.N. action on Iran and to quell the violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, the hearing focused on whether U.N. sanctions can be effective given the corruption in the now-defunct oil-for-food program in Iraq.
“We need an effectively functioning U.N. We need a U.N. that can handle major sanctions programs,” Bolton said, pressing the administration’s case for sweeping reforms.
He complained that developing nations last week adopted a resolution “which, for all intents and purposes, tanks” U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s management reform plan.
Bolton said he hoped those nations, which he said provide around 12 percent of the U.N. budget, realize that “repudiating the countries that contribute the overwhelming bulk of the U.N. budget isn’t a way to win friends and influence people.”
Bolton also rebuffed persistent questions from Democrats on whether in his previous post as the State Department’s top arms control diplomat, he had a role in writing administration documents making now discredited assertions about Iraq’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, congressman. I had no role in this issue,” Bolton told Rep. Henry Waxman of California, top Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, remarked that it was “stunning that you were not in the loop.”