U.N. Sets Deadline on Iran’s Nuclear Work
The Security Council voted Monday to give Iran a month to halt its uranium enrichment program or face potential economic and diplomatic sanctions.
The resolution, approved by a 14-1 vote with Qatar dissenting, gives Iran until Aug. 31 to “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development.”
The resolution is the first by the Security Council that is legally binding on Iran and includes the threat of sanctions for noncompliance. However, sanctions would not be automatic. The Security Council would have to vote again to impose punitive measures.
“This is a very strong signal to Iran that they’ve got a choice to make,” said John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “The ball is clearly in Iran’s court.”
In a lengthy speech after the vote, Javad Zarif, Iran’s U.N. envoy, told Security Council members that the resolution was “destructive and totally unwarranted” and said it violated international law.
Iran maintains that its enrichment efforts are for peaceful purposes and are allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The U.S. and West European allies worry that Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Enrichment can produce material for nuclear weapons or for civilian uses such as electricity.
Iran has previously said it will respond by Aug. 22 to a proposed incentive package offered by the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.
Zarif characterized the Aug. 31 deadline as “arbitrary” and said the Security Council rushed the resolution while moving slowly to stanch Israeli attacks in Lebanon.
Bolton responded that Iran was suspected of running a secret nuclear program for the last 18 years. “This is not exactly hasty action by the Security Council,” he said.
The resolution was necessary, said Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, the French ambassador, because the Security Council had been “very disappointed” by Iran’s responses to overtures concerning its nuclear efforts.
The scope of Iran’s enrichment program remains unclear, the resolution said, despite three years of efforts to assess it by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitor.
The resolution says the council intends to adopt “appropriate measures” if Iran does not comply. Specifically, it says, the Security Council would take measures under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which lists potential economic and diplomatic punishments but excludes the use of force.
Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador, played down the possibility of sanctions.
“If even a slight offer is made to be constructive,” Churkin said, “there should be no problem at all.”
Nassir Abdulaziz Nasser, Qatar’s U.N. ambassador, expressed concern about the Aug. 31 deadline, saying the situation in Lebanon is more pressing.