Wall Street Journal: The Bush administration has raised sharp but unspecified objections to a draft package of sanctions against Iran floated by European countries. The Wall Street Journal
By NEIL KING JR.
October 26, 2006; Page A6
The Bush administration has raised sharp but unspecified objections to a draft package of sanctions against Iran floated by European countries.
The resolution, proposed by Britain, France and Germany under the aegis of the United Nations, seeks to cut off most outside support to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs, while limiting the travel of top Iranian military officials, European diplomats said yesterday.
Iran’s uranium-enrichment program has raised suspicions that it aims to develop atomic weapons, though Tehran maintains it has only civilian-energy goals. The Europeans, who have led the diplomacy with Iran for nearly three years, are trying to craft an initial package of economic penalties that will win the support of Washington, which wants tougher punishments, as well as Russia and China, which are leery of sanctioning Iran.
A U.S. official who reviewed the draft said, “The Europeans have a fundamental difference with us on how to proceed, and this draft reflects that difference.”
This first sanctions package is meant to be part of a series of increasingly stern resolutions if Iran continues to steam ahead on its nuclear program. Yet the difficulty in forging consensus on this first step shows how hard it will be to win agreement on a second sanctions plan.
Bush administration officials yesterday declined to provide details on how they would like the draft resolution altered, other than to say it isn’t yet stringent enough. They cautioned that negotiations on specific language are at an early stage, and differences could be resolved in coming days. Russian and Chinese diplomats said they were still reviewing the draft and declined to comment.
Top officials in Moscow and Beijing have expressed reservations about imposing any measures that would encourage the Iranians to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to reject future cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran signed the treaty in the 1960s, forswearing nuclear weapons in exchange for access to technology that could be used for an energy program.
One issue particularly sensitive to Moscow is the future of the Russian-led work on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear-power plant, which Russia doesn’t want to see canceled. The draft would allow that work to continue, but without Russia supplying the reactor with fuel. U.S. officials said they would like the language on Bushehr to be altered, but declined to provide details of what Washington wants.
A U.N. resolution in July threatened to impose sanctions on Iran if it didn’t suspend uranium enrichment and agree to return to negotiations by the end of August. Since then, the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain — the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council — have wrestled with what sort of penalties might bring Tehran back to the table.
The Bush administration has hoped that concerns about North Korea’s nuclear test earlier this month might galvanize support for a more muscular approach toward Tehran. Yet Iran’s oil wealth and complex commercial interactions with Europe, Russia and China make the U.N. diplomatic effort more complex.
European and U.S. diplomats said negotiations over the draft resolution could drag into next week or beyond.