The UN Security Council is in no rush to pressure Iran over its suspect nuclear program, Russia said Wednesday, striking a more conciliatory tone than the United States as diplomats began discussing a resolution to put legal muscle behind demands that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the council wants an answer sometime soon to a June 5 package of incentives that six world powers offered to Iran if it stopped enrichment. But he stressed the council is not trying to push Tehran.
"We are not in a rush at all," Churkin said. "We do not want to ambush Iran in any way. We're very much in a negotiating political mode. We do not want to dictate things to Iran."
"Nobody's pushing, nobody's pushing Iran anywhere," he said.
Churkin's remarks seemed distinctly more relaxed than the message that was sent on July 12, when foreign ministers of the six countries, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US, met and expressed disappointment that Iran had failed to respond positively to the package.
They referred the issue back to the Security Council and asked that members adopt a resolution making Iran's suspension of enrichment activities mandatory.
They were also different from sentiments expressed by Washington, which has been vocal in its frustration with the Iranian response so far.
US Ambassador John Bolton said Washington had instructed him to get a resolution passed on Iran by the end of the week. But with the council so busy on Lebanon, and negotiations on Iran likely to take several days, other diplomats said that seemed unlikely.
The five permanent members of the council met Wednesday to trade ideas about the language of a new resolution. The dynamic appeared to be the same as it was when the council haggled over a statement confronting Iran's nuclear ambitions in March: China and Russia looking for weaker action, with Britain, France and the US seeking a tough response.
While an outline for a draft exists, the negotiations are now focused on the complex diplomatic language of Security Council resolutions, for example, which article of the UN Charter to cite as authority.
Bolton said the council diplomats agreed that the resolution must be legally binding, as their foreign ministers had said earlier in July. But beyond that, they were still working.
"What we have not reached agreement on is the precise formulation of the words that will do that," he said. "And after all, that's what we do here. We smith words, and so we need to do some more smithing of words."
A draft circulated by the United States calls for the Iran's uranium suspension to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and other international experts.
It had no deadline. Russia offered an amended resolution on Wednesday that would weaken the document significantly, but would ask the IAEA to report back on Iran's compliance by August 31.
In remarks to reporters, Churkin did urge Iran to respond as soon as possible to the incentives package. If it does so, he said, the whole process of a council resolution could be avoided.
"We keep hearing from Iran that their attitude is supposed to be constructive, so if this is the case we hope ... a possible response will come because the offer is so generous," he said.
Iran said Sunday that the incentives package was an "acceptable basis" for talks, and invited world powers to enter detailed negotiations over its disputed nuclear program.
But that was not the direct, formal response that the council wanted, and diplomats are still going ahead with a resolution.