UNITED NATIONS – Britain and France introduced a U.N. Security Council resolution Wednesday demanding that Iran abandon its uranium enrichment program, possibly setting the stage for sanctions if Tehran does not comply.
Diplomats said they hoped the sharply worded resolution, backed by the United States, will be adopted before a meeting of foreign ministers in New York next Monday.
That could force a showdown with Russia, which has arms and technology deals with Iran, as well as China. Both nations have said they adamantly oppose tough council action, and could use their veto-power on the council to block it.
“I don’t think this draft as it stands now will produce good results,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said as he emerged from the Security Council meeting where the draft was introduced. “I think it’s tougher than expected.”
The resolution mandates that Iran suspend enrichment and warns that the council would “consider such further measures as may be necessary to ensure compliance” — language that opens the door to sanctions.
But Iran nuclear chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh said Wednesday his nation had enriched uranium to the upper end of the range needed to make fuel for reactors, further defying U.N. demands. Iran announced April 11 it had enriched uranium for the first time.
The resolution calls on Iran to stop construction of a heavy-water reactor and demands that nations “exercise vigilance” in blocking the transfer of goods and technology that could help Iran’s uranium reprocessing and missile programs.
It will seek a report back from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the
International Atomic Energy Agency, on Iran’s compliance.
“Once again, the key to this lies in Iran’s hands,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said. “If they give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons, a lot of things are possible. If they continue to bluster and to threaten and obfuscate and try to throw sand in our eyes, then we’re onto a different circumstance.”
No timeframe has been set for that report but France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he wants that report no later than early June.
Iran says its nuclear program is confined to generating power, but the United States and France accuse the country of secretly trying to build nuclear weapons.
The resolution was written under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes any demands mandatory and allows for the use of sanctions — and possibly force — if they are not obeyed. Any sanctions would require another resolution.
President Bush has stressed that the United States will continue to focus on diplomacy. However, he refuses to rule out military action if necessary.
When asked last month whether U.S. options regarding Iran “include the possibility of a nuclear strike” if Tehran refuses to halt uranium enrichment, Bush replied, “All options are on the table.”
The resolution was drafted by Britain, France and Germany, the three
European Union nations that have led negotiations with Iran. Ambassadors said discussions between the three EU nations, the United States, China and Russia were only beginning over the resolution.
“On the strategic objective, there’s nothing between the six of us. We do not want to see an Iran with a nuclear weapon capability,” Britain’s Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said. “On the detail of the resolution, there have been exchanges of views and those will continue.”
Wang, China’s ambassador, said he also opposed language that refers to the “proliferation risks presented by the Iranian nuclear program” and “the threat to international peace and security.”
Last month, the Security Council issued a nonbinding statement that Iran comply with previous demands to abandon enrichment. That statement asked for a report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei in 30 days on Iran’s compliance.
As had been widely expected, ElBaradei issued a report Friday saying Iran had not complied, laying the groundwork for Wednesday’s resolution.
Western nations say the statement and the resolution are part of a gradual process of increasing pressure on Iran.