US pushes for UN action on Iran

IAEA report stresses non-compliance in halting nuclear program.

john bolton 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
john bolton 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The UN Security Council will convene this week to begin discussions on a new resolution on Iran's nuclear program, with the possibility of imposing future sanctions if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration does not comply with the demand to stop the program. The US and Britain are behind the move to get the Security Council more actively involved in the issue, following Friday's submission of a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which concluded that Iran did not meet the requirements regarding halting its nuclear program and did not cooperate with the inspection teams of the agency. US President George Bush said, following the report, that the world is united in concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions, yet he stressed the diplomatic channel as the way to deal with this concern. "I think the diplomatic options are just beginning," Bush said. The US has already begun work on a draft resolution which will be presented this week to the Security Council. The resolution will call on the international body to demand that Iran live up to its obligations as a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said the resolution will be under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which paves the way to imposing sanctions against Iran if it does not comply. As a last resort, Chapter 7 also allows the use of military measures as a way to enforce the UN decisions. "That really puts the ball back in Iran's court, and it's up to them whether they will honor their obligations," Bolton said Friday. The US still faces an uphill battle to force Iran to accept the demands of the international community. Out of the five permanent members of the Security Council which hold a veto power, only three - the US, Britain and France - agree on a Chapter 7 resolution. The other two - China and Russia - prefer moving forward without a binding resolution and are expected to oppose such a resolution when brought to the Security Council. Foreign ministers of the five permanent members and of Germany will meet in New York on May 9 to discuss the issue. The IAEA report determines that Iran did not act on the UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt of its nuclear activity within a 30-day time period. Teheran, according to the report, did not cooperate with the IAEA team and refused to provide information regarding the uranium enrichment plans and the use of a centrifuge cascade to enable the enrichment process. "After more than three years of agency efforts to seek clarity about all aspects of Iran's nuclear program, the existing gaps in knowledge continue to be a matter of concern," the report said. It also stressed that Iran did not provide the full transparency which the international community demanded. The report could not determine whether Iran is still actively enriching uranium. The 30-day period given by the Security Council to Iran was part of a non-binding resolution. Now that the IAEA inspectors have determined that Iran did nothing during this grace period to comply with the requirements, it is easier for the international community to pursue other ways to coerce Iran into cooperation, including the use of sanctions. Even after the release of the IAEA report, Iran remained defiant and declared it would cooperate only if its nuclear program would be dealt with by the IAEA exclusively, without involving the Security Council. In a letter to the agency, Iran said that if this condition was met, it would be willing to provide a timetable within three weeks for resuming the talks with the IAEA. Over the weekend Iran seemed to be on course of deepening the conflict with the international community, with a series of confrontational statements. Ahmadinejad said that the UN cannot make Iran give up their nuclear program and added that "the Iranian nation won't give a damn about such useless resolutions." Ahmadinejad added a veiled threat to completely stop cooperation with the international atomic agency, saying that "If these regulations that guarantee our rights are used against us, we will totally change our way of dealing with the organizations." While actively seeking a US resolution that can impose sanctions on Iran, the US is also pursuing a parallel channel of sanctions which will not involve the Security Council. According to US sources, the administration is holding discussions with European countries and with Japan to explore the possibility of these countries and the US cutting business ties and imposing sanctions against Iran directly, without doing so as part of a UN Security Council resolution. This will enable the US to pressure Teheran even if it is not able to convince Russia and China to pass a resolution in the Security Council.