UNSC to vote on new Iran sanctions

Britain and France considering suggestions for changes; Libya to vote against the current draft.

Bushehr 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bushehr 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Britain and France said they expect the Security Council to vote Saturday and approve new UN sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. The two countries co-sponsored the resolution that would impose a third round of sanctions on Iran. The two previous sanctions resolutions were adopted unanimously, but this one is currently facing difficulties from four non-permanent council members who have raised a variety of concerns - Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam. Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers said the resolution would have been adopted if it was put to a vote on Thursday. It is supported by the five veto-wielding council members - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - and has more than the nine "yes" votes needed in the 15-member council for adoption. But Sawers said "we want to have as much support as is possible," so France and Britain are holding up putting the resolution in the final form for a vote until Friday "to go the extra mile" and get the countries with concerns on board. "We think the wider the base of support, the clearer the political signal" sent to Iran, he said Thursday. Britain and France are considering suggestions for small changes from one country and are ready to meet another council member on Friday morning to address concerns, Sawers said. The countries were not identified. Once the resolution is in its final form, Sawers said, "our intent is ... to vote on it as soon as possible thereafter, probably on Saturday." US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was more emphatic about the timing, saying the US had agreed with the sponsors to put the resolution in final form on Friday "and to vote on Saturday." "Some states are still consulting with their capitals and there are contacts being made," he said, noting that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is currently in South Africa, one of the countries that has raised concerns. Libya's UN Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi told reporters on Monday that he would vote against the current draft, and Indonesia's UN Ambassador Marty Natalegawa reiterated his country's serious concerns on Thursday. "As of today, we feel there are more questions than answers," Natalegawa said. "We are in a cycle of sanctions, noncompliance, more sanctions, more noncompliance, and where does that lead the Security Council to?" All four countries that raised questions wanted to wait for a report on Iran's past nuclear activities from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. That report, released last Friday, said suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest - a point stressed by the Libyan and Indonesian envoys. But the report also said that Iran rejected new documents that link Teheran to missile and explosives experiments and other work connected to a possible nuclear weapons program, calling the information false and irrelevant. The report confirmed that Iran has continued to enrich uranium in defiance of repeated council resolutions. The IAEA demanded that Teheran suspend its uranium centrifuge program, which could produce both civilian nuclear fuel and the material for a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its enrichment activities are intended only to produce fuel for nuclear energy to generate electricity, but the US, the European Union and others suspect its real aim is to produce atomic weapons. Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters Moscow supports Iran's right to develop peaceful nuclear energy under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and recently provided nuclear fuel for the nuclear power plant it helped Iran build at the southern port of Bushehr. "In our mind this provides a great opportunity for Iran to heed the request of the international community for suspension of uranium enrichment because any conceivable needs for the foreseeable future for fuel for the existing nuclear power plant have been satisfied," Churkin said. "Unfortunately, this is not the case so this is the stumbling block which makes it inevitable that the Security Council is currently considering this resolution," he said. The draft resolution would expand travel restrictions and the freezing of assets to more Iranian officials linked to the nuclear effort, and impose a travel ban on some of those most involved in proliferation activity. For the first time, it would ban trade with Iran in goods which have both civilian and military uses. It would introduce financial monitoring on two banks with suspected links to proliferation activities, and call on all countries "to exercise vigilance" in granting export credits, guarantees or insurance. It would also authorize inspections of shipments to and from Iran that are suspected of carrying prohibited goods. Russia's Churkin, who takes over the council presidency on Saturday, said that "for the first time it does have some positive words about Iran's cooperation with the IAEA." The resolution will also be accompanied by a statement from the foreign ministers of the five permanent council nations and Germany - who have offered Iran a package of incentives for suspending enrichment. It will strongly emphasize "the continued efforts of the six towards a diplomatic and political solution of this matter," Churkin said.