AP: A unanimous U.N. Security Council vote to condemn North Korea’s missile launches has set an important precedent and strengthened the powerful U.N. body as it turns to its next challenge: confronting Iran’s suspect nuclear program, diplomats said. Associated Press
By NICK WADHAMS
Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – A unanimous U.N. Security Council vote to condemn North Korea’s missile launches has set an important precedent and strengthened the powerful U.N. body as it turns to its next challenge: confronting Iran’s suspect nuclear program, diplomats said.
Sometime this week, the council will take up Iran’s continued refusal to respond formally to Western incentives to stop enriching uranium. The fact that the council was able to unite on the difficult North Korea resolution raised hopes among diplomats that a unanimous agreement could be reached on an Iran resolution.
Diplomats said the success on delivering a tough message on North Korea will carry over when the Iran talks begin. Iran and North Korea are the first nonproliferation issues to come before the council since Iraq, which deeply divided the council.
“We need unity of the council on these nonproliferation issues,” France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said after the North Korea vote on Saturday. “So the fact that we have – my view – we have reached unity on the North Korean issue in the council I think will help us on Iran.”
Diplomats negotiated the North Korea resolution over 11 tension-filled days, avoiding a threatened veto from China, which opposed any mention of the U.N. Charter’s Chapter 7. Chapter 7 makes such resolutions legally binding and enforceable with military action.
Britain came up with compromise language that dropped the reference to Chapter 7 and allowed the 15 council members to vote for the resolution unanimously.
A Chinese veto would have soured the tone of negotiations over Iran, and widened divisions among the five permanent members – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia. That likely would have banished any desire to compromise by either side.
The resolution on North Korea was weakened during the negotiations but still took crucial steps: It imposes limited sanctions, and diplomats believe it will strengthen nations’ authority to interdict weapons shipments to and from North Korea.
Saturday’s resolution was the first that the council passed on North Korea since 1993, a fact that U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Iran should remember.
“It’s been 13 years since the Security Council got its act together sufficiently to act on North Korea and it’s going to do so today in a unanimous fashion,” he said before the vote on Saturday. “That’s a very, very important political signal for any would-be proliferators.”
Back in March, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Iran suspend uranium enrichment. That requirement was conveyed in a simple council statement that was not legally binding – the result of Chinese and Russian refusal to consider issuing a resolution, which would have been stronger.
After Iran refused to obey, western powers presented the package of incentives in June meant to draw Iran back to negotiations and suspend enrichment. Yet Iran insisted it needed more time to respond, leading frustrated world powers to agree last Wednesday to send Iran to the Security Council for a firmer, perhaps legally binding, demand to suspend enrichment.
In a sign that Iran may fear a newly unified council, Tehran said Sunday that the Western incentives to halt its nuclear program were an “acceptable basis” for talks, and it is ready for detailed negotiations.
That could be an attempt to sow new divisions in the council. Diplomats have said recent meetings with Iran have gone nowhere, and Tehran may want to buy time or exploit potential rifts.
There is also a danger of a different sort of precedent.
The question of whether Pyongyang would obey any council demands hovered over the North Korea talks. The North’s answer came minutes after the resolution passed. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon took told the council that North Korea rejected the resolution and would continue with missile tests.
He accused the council of acting in an “unjustifiable and gangster-like” way, and abruptly left the council chamber before the meeting was over – a breach of diplomatic protocol.
Iran, North Korea’s cohort in President Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” along with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, could be emboldened by the North’s angry response. It already has warned that Security Council sanctions against Tehran would only exacerbate tensions in the Middle East.
“Now is an appropriate opportunity for Iran and Europe to enter detailed negotiations,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said. “Sending the dossier to the U.N. Security Council means blocking and rejecting talks.”