Bloomberg: The United Nations Security Council will vote within days on whether to impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its nuclear program, the U.S. government said. By Ed Johnson and Bill Varner
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) — The United Nations Security Council will vote within days on whether to impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its nuclear program, the U.S. government said.
“We are hopeful that we can get a vote in the very near future,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, told Cable News Network that sanctions will be passed against Iran “in the next several days.”
Talks on a resolution to pressure Iran to abandon uranium enrichment have been deadlocked for months. The U.S. government, which says the regime in Tehran is intent on developing a nuclear weapon, backs a resolution that would bar it from acquiring any materials and technology that could be used to develop an atomic bomb.
Russia, which is constructing a commercial nuclear reactor for Iran, opposes a proposed travel ban and asset freeze on officials involved with “proliferation sensitive” activities.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke by telephone yesterday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an attempt to resolve “outstanding issues,” McCormack told reporters in Washington. He declined to say whether any progress was made.
Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, says its work is designed to fuel power plants and has repeatedly said it will press ahead with its program even though the UN imposed an Aug. 31 deadline to halt uranium enrichment.
Ambassadors of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, the U.S., U.K., Russia, China and France, met yesterday in New York, together with Germany’s ambassador, to discuss the resolution.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters the travel ban was a “sticking point” and said it was “50-50” whether the Security Council would adopt the draft resolution this week. Like Russia, China has economic interests in Iran and has expressed caution about moving toward sanctions.
Iran concealed its atomic program from the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, for 18 years until 2003. Enriched uranium can fuel an atomic reactor or form a bomb’s core depending on the grade to which it is enriched.
Iran, which holds the world’s second largest oil and gas reserves, has paid Russia as much as $1 billion to build a nuclear power plant in the southwestern Iranian city of Bushehr, capable of generating about 1,000 megawatts of electricity.
Iran will be in a position to build a nuclear bomb by 2009 at the earliest, Meir Dagan, chief of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, told a parliamentary committee yesterday, Haaretz reported.
Dagan told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iran is intensifying efforts to enrich uranium and aims to have some 3,000 centrifuges working by the end of 2007, the Israeli daily newspaper said on its Web site.
The country will pass the “technological point of no return” when those centrifuges work non-stop for three months, the newspaper cited Dagan as saying.
Iran does not recognize Israel. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pronounced ah-ma-deen-ah-ZHAD, has said the Jewish state should be “wiped off the map.”