(photo credit: AP)
World powers are considering dropping UN Security Council involvement in Iran's nuclear file if Teheran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment, but could push for selective sanctions backed by the threat of force if it doesn't, diplomats said Saturday.
Citing from a draft proposal now being considered by the five Security Council nations plus Germany, one of the diplomats said it could still undergo revision before the six nations sit down Wednesday to approve it. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal elements of the draft.
The proposal says the international community will "agree to suspend discussion of Iran's file at the Security Council," if Teheran resumes discussion on its nuclear program and suspends enrichment during such talks and lifts a ban on intrusive inspections by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
It also offers help in "the building of new light water reactors in Iran," offers an assured supply of nuclear fuel for up to five years and calls for Teheran to accept a plan that would remove its own enrichment program to Russia to prevent misuse for a possible nuclear weapons program.
If Iran does not cooperate, however, the draft calls for bans on travel visas, freezing assets and banning financial transactions of key government figures and those involved in Iran's nuclear program; an arms embargo, and other measures including an embargo on shipping refined oil products to Iran. While Iran is a major exporter of crude, it has a shortage of gasoline and other oil derivatives.
"Where appropriate, these measures would be adopted under Chapter VII, Article 41 of the UN Charter," says the draft, referring to provisions that add the implicit threat of military force to a Security Council resolution.
That section - backed by the United States, France and Britain - remains controversial, however, and the head of the IAEA plans to urge the administration of US President George W. Bush next week to ease its push for tough UN Security Council action.
Diplomats said that Mohamed ElBaradei would meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and other top US officials to press the administration to moderate its stance.
Several of the diplomats - all of them accredited to the Vienna-based agency - told The Associated Press that ElBaradei's Washington meetings would be Tuesday, a day before the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany convene in London to give their blessings to an Iran package.
The Americans have swung behind new attempts by France, Britain and Germany to persuade the Iranians to give up enrichment - which can be used to generate nuclear fuel or the core of weapons. But Washington insists that the Iran package include the threat of a Security Council resolution that is militarily enforceable if Teheran refuses.
Russia and China - the two other permanent Security Council members - oppose any resolution that even implicitly threatens the use of force.
One of the diplomats said on Friday that Washington remained opposed to proposals by some European nations that the Iranians be offered US-backed security guarantees effectively removing the threat of American-backed attempts at regime change, the diplomat said.
Concern has been building since 2002, when Iran was found to be working on large-scale plans to enrich uranium. Iran insists it is only interested in generating electricity, but the international community increasingly fears ulterior motives.
A series of IAEA reports since then have revealed worrying secret activities and documents, including drawings of how to mold weapons-grade uranium metal into the shape of a warhead.
Iran heightened international concerns by announcing April 11 that it had enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges. It has informed the IAEA that it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges in the last quarter of 2006.
Experts estimate that Iran could produce enough nuclear material for one bomb if it had at least 1,000 centrifuges working for over a year.