Reuters: Six world powers agreed on Friday to discuss possible U.N. Security Council sanctions to punish Iran for failing to halt its nuclear program but said they were still open to negotiations with Tehran. By Sophie Walker
LONDON (Reuters) – Six world powers agreed on Friday to discuss possible U.N. Security Council sanctions to punish Iran for failing to halt its nuclear program but said they were still open to negotiations with Tehran.
The United States, which has accused Iran of trying to build a nuclear bomb, portrayed the agreement with Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China as a decision by the six powers to impose sanctions, with just their scope now to be determined.
“The decision has been made we’ll go for sanctions. The question is what will the extent of the sanctions be,” U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told reporters after the London ministerial-level meeting.
Burns said the six powers’ political directors would hold talks on Tuesday or Wednesday and that their U.N. ambassadors were expected to begin discussing a sanctions resolution the following day.
While Washington, backed by Britain, is lobbying hard for sanctions, Russia and China have opposed this route.
Russia reiterated after the meeting that talks with Iran were the way forward and that it would continue to pursue that goal at the United Nations.
“We have firmly confirmed that we will hold consultations in the U.N. Security Council on what additional measures to take to incite the Iranian party to accepting the proposals that the sextet made in early June,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
In June, the six powers offered Iran economic and political incentives to halt uranium enrichment. In its reply, Iran hinted at some flexibility over suspension but not as a precondition for talks.
Iran, which says its nuclear program is only for power generation, missed a Security Council deadline of August 31 to stop uranium enrichment. Apart from Germany, the powers that met in London were veto-wielding Security Council members.
“Further pressure (on Iran) is needed,” British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told reporters.
In July, a U.N. resolution authorized the Security Council to “adopt appropriate measures” to pressure Iran under article 41, Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which referred to commercial or diplomatic sanctions but excluded military force.
“We are proposing to consult on measures under Article 41. That means not military measures but it does mean other measures which can put pressure on Iran in order to bring them to the negotiating table,” said Beckett.
A senior U.S. official told reporters the six powers were discussing imposing “graduated sanctions” against Iran, starting with measures against at its nuclear industry.
The official, who declined to be named, said these could include limiting trade in “dual-use” technologies with civilian and military applications, restricting investment in the industry and limiting contacts with Iranian nuclear scientists.
After four months of negotiations between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, Tehran says it will not stop its atomic work and has a right to nuclear technology.
Iran has shrugged off the sanctions threat. The world’s fourth largest oil exporter feels it can cope with such steps.
A European diplomat said the London meeting had essentially shifted future talks on whether to start drafting sanctions back to New York, under the auspices of the United Nations.
“We bring back the ball to the Security Council,” the diplomat told Reuters, asking not to be named. “The real discussion on sanctions is going to be in New York.”
The six powers said in a statement after the London meeting they were “deeply disappointed” Iran was not prepared to suspend its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities but that they would continue efforts to find a negotiated solution.
Long-running divisions among the world powers were evident before the meeting.
Russia and China had agreed it was “absolutely unacceptable” to threaten force against Iran and that talk of ultimatums was counter-productive, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev was quoted as saying earlier on Friday.
But U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the time when sanctions would need to be imposed was drawing near.
“I suspect that we are getting there pretty quickly because we cannot continue to extend deadline after deadline after deadline or nobody will take the international system seriously,” she said before the meeting.
Tehran again urged the West on Thursday to solve the dispute through talks and repeated it would not stop uranium enrichment.
(Additional reporting by Adrian Croft, Arshad Mohammed, Paul Majendie, Christian Lowe and Sue Pleming)