Reuters: A U.N. resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear ambitions ran into trouble on Thursday, with Russia calling for a one-day delay on the vote, although the United States remained optimistic. By Evelyn Leopold and Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A U.N. resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear ambitions ran into trouble on Thursday, with Russia calling for a one-day delay on the vote, although the United States remained optimistic.
Britain, France and Germany, which together drafted the Security Council resolution, had called a vote for Friday morning and conducted last minute talks with the United States, Russia and China on Thursday afternoon.
“I do not think there is going to be a vote tomorrow (Friday),” Moscow’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters in a recess during the talks among the six nations.
“Maybe Saturday, yes, but clearly we will need tomorrow for further thinking and maybe further discussions of the draft resolution,” Churkin said.
Participants in the talks reported, on condition of anonymity, that Russian President Vladimir Putin was himself conducting consultations in Moscow.
Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful uses only, has vowed to continue its atomic program, regardless of the resolution, even if approved by Russia, which is building a $800 million light-water reactor for Tehran at Bushehr that is exempted in the resolution.
The draft resolution demands Tehran end all uranium enrichment work, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants as well as for bombs, and halt research and development that can make or deliver atomic weapons.
To this end, the measure bans the import and export of dangerous materials and technology relating to uranium enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water reactors, as well as ballistic missile delivery systems.
Russia, diplomats said, wanted to dilute the resolution’s demand for a freeze of financial assets of a list of Iranian companies and called for a distinction between legal and illegal activities of these firms.
But Moscow did not object to the main sanctions on banned items for Iran, they said.
According to Russia’s Churkin “just two or three issues remain but those are difficult issues.”
While he said he approved of a ban on enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water nuclear reactors, “other activities should not be in any way prohibited or restricted.”
However, the United States as well as France held out hope a vote could still be called on Friday after discussions among governments of the six nations.
“We’re close to a final text,” said acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff. “There are some elements that are still of concern to us (and) to other delegations and we’ll continue working on it. We’ll see if we can do it (Friday).”
“For the time being, the vote is still scheduled for Friday,” said a statement from France’s U.N. mission.
In a concession to Russia on Wednesday, the Europeans deleted a mandatory travel ban and instead told nations to notify a Security Council sanctions panel should any of 12 Iranians involved in the country’s nuclear programs visit their countries. Their names are on a list attached to the resolution.
The draft also imposes an assets freeze on the 12 people as well as 11 organisations associated with nuclear programs.
They include the country’s atomic energy agency and organisations dealing with Iran’s centrifuge programs, its heavy-water research reactor being built at Arak and a pilot uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.
The resolution says these firms could still access funds for legal activities governed by prior contacts but Russia apparently wanted to remove the word “prior.”
The resolution is a reaction to Iran’s failure to comply with an August 31 U.N. deadline to suspend uranium enrichment work and resume negotiations and has been the subject of talks among the six powers since then.
Iran has also threatened to review its co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, a move Russia and China feared during talks on the resolution.
“If they ratify the resolution Iran will be in a new situation. In this situation Iran will review its co-operation with the agency and other political, economic and cultural fields,” Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying by the ISNA student news agency in Tehran.
Earlier U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters, “We are very supportive of the European Union draft.” But she said Washington had wanted a tougher measure.
“It’s no secret we would have preferred to have this earlier had we been the lone drafter, and of course there might have been other things in it,” Rice said in Washington.
(Additional reporting by Paul Hughes in Tehran)