Burns: New sanctions can get Iran's attention

US official says "punitive" resolution could lead EU to impose its own, much harsher, sanctions.

nicholas burns 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
nicholas burns 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A new draft resolution for a third round of UN sanctions against Iran could cause Teheran to rethink its pursuit of nuclear power by paving the way for the European Union to impose its own much harsher sanctions, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said Thursday. "If we could have a third resolution passed in another few weeks, there is every reason to believe the EU will return to discussions they have been having for the last few months about EU sanctions, which will undoubtedly be much tougher," Burns told reporters in Jerusalem. He said if the UN Security Council sanctions and EU sanctions were combined with steps the private sector was taking against the Islamic Republic, "perhaps the combination of actions will be what will be required to finally get the attention of the Iranians." Burns said the sanctions text had been agreed upon by the five permanent members of the Security Council - US, France, Britain, Russia and China. It would take another couple of weeks, he said, for the Security Council to pass it. It took "longer than it should have taken for us to work out the third sanctions resolution, but we got there, and Russia and China are with us," he said. Burns was in Israel together with Stuart Levey, the US undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, for talks with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz within the framework of the Israel-US Strategic Dialogue. Levey is Washington's point-man in getting international financial institutions to act against Teheran. Burns said his talks on Thursday with the Israeli delegation focused on Iran but also touched on other regional issues, such as Lebanon, as well as the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. Contrary to declarations from Moscow, Burns said the new Security Council resolution would be "punitive" and would focus on imposing additional travel bans on officials involved in the Iranian nuclear program, freezing some of the Islamic Republic's assets and placing a ban on dual-use items. "The sanctions are the right way forward," Burns said. He said they were "building on prior resolutions," as well as creating new "sanction categories." While Mofaz told the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday that the likelihood of an attack on Iran was increasing, Burns said the possibility of a military strike did not come up during the Strategic Dialogue talks. Burns described former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton's calls this week on Israel to prepare a strike on Iran as "very extreme comments." "The US is focused on diplomacy," he said. "We believe that this is the solution to this problem." Asked if reports of a growing rift between Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a manifestation of the diplomatic pressure Teheran was under, Burns said the US judged Iran based on its actions. According to news reports, Khamenei, in a rare move, publicly intervened on Monday to end a dispute between Ahmadinejad and the country's parliament. "While there may be a cacophony of voices, we need to watch their actions," the US diplomat said, adding that Iran was the greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world today. Burns said he invited Mofaz to Washington in March to continue the discussions. "We want to make sure that every several months we are having a comprehensive set of discussions on Iran," he said.