Russia and China have raised objections to nearly every Western proposal for new U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions except a ban on arms exports, according to a working paper. The document, seen by Reuters on Thursday, shows some Russian and Chinese reservations about other proposals for a U.N. Security Council resolution.
These include a mandatory travel ban, financial and trade restrictions and an expanded list of Iranian officials and firms whose assets would be frozen, such as those controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Iran’s state-owned Bank Sepah, already under U.S. sanctions.
In an effort to break the logjam, senior foreign policy officials from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China held another telephone conference on Thursday, followed by a meeting of U.N. ambassadors late in the day.
“We were just taking stock on where we are,” said Alejandro Wolff, a U.S. ambassador, after the meeting. “There have been lots of conversations between capitals, so we wanted to compare notes, make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
The new resolution is a follow-up to one adopted by the Security Council on December 23 that imposed trade sanctions on sensitive nuclear materials and technology and froze assets of key Iranians individuals, groups and businesses.
Iran was required to suspend nuclear enrichment work, which can be used for peaceful purposes or to make a bomb, but Tehran has refused to do so.
Among the proposals under consideration in the document, dated March 3, were:
— A mandatory travel ban on Iranian officials connected with the nuclear program. Russia and China have not signed on.
— A ban on exports, but not imports, of weapons in addition to the restrictions on materials related to nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in the December resolution. Russia and China raised no objections to the embargo but to another provision that allows member states to take “cooperative action” to prevent weapons trafficking.
— A ban on new commitments by countries for grants, loans and credits to Iran except for humanitarian purposes. Russia and China want this made voluntary.
The proposals would call on, but not order, international financial institutions to do the same and asks nations to “exercise vigilance and restraint” in providing any financial support to Iran, including insuring companies trading with Tehran. Russia and China have reservations.
— The proposed measures would add to a list in the December resolution of Iranian officials, groups and companies whose assets would be frozen. Russia and China had reservations against putting “entities” owned or controlled by Iran’s Revolution Guard Corps on the list.
The United States and leading European countries suspect Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic program. Tehran denies the charge and says its program is for generating electricity only.
“We’re still discussing the general approach and I hope we will be able to move fairly quickly once we all have an understanding,” Wolff said.
He said negotiators shared the same objective, “to signal to the Iranian government that there is a cost for not adhering to resolutions, for not complying with their obligations and the cost increases each time they don’t comply.”
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, “some new thoughts” were discussed and some progress was made.
But we still have to see how firm it is,” he said.