Despite Russia and China’s objections, the United States, Britain and France introduced a draft Security Council resolution Wednesday that would legally compel Iran to halt its nuclear enrichment activities.
The resolution does not call for specific consequences if Iran does not comply, but makes it clear that sanctions would be the next step. It demands that Iran “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development,” and calls on nations to prevent the transfer of materials for Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
The draft cites Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which authorizes punitive action for matters designated to be threats to international peace and security.
“This resolution does not deal with sanctions,” U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said. But he said that if Iran did not “back away,” the Security Council stood ready to impose targeted sanctions that would ban Iranian leaders’ international travel, freeze their assets and restrict some imports.
“We’ve made no secret about this,” Bolton said.
Russia and China, which have veto power in the Security Council and extensive trade with Iran, say there is not enough evidence that the Islamic Republic is an imminent threat to international peace and security to warrant sanctions. They also fear that the Chapter VII designation will open the door to political and economic penalties or a military strike on Iran.
“We do not believe this matter can be resolved by the use of force,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s new ambassador to the U.N. “A diplomatic and political solution is still possible.”
But Churkin said Russia was willing to back the measure if Moscow’s objections were heeded.
“Of course,” he said, when asked whether there was any way Russia could support the resolution. “We are here to work together with the rest of the Security Council. We participated in taking the decision that we should go ahead with the resolution.”
The draft has language meant to reassure China and Russia that Security Council approval would be necessary to go ahead with sanctions or other enforcement measures, while leaving the council flexibility to start preparing them.
It says the Security Council “expresses its intention to consider further measures as may be necessary to ensure compliance with this resolution and decides that further examination will be required should such additional steps be necessary.”
Sponsors of the resolution hope to persuade Russia and China to at least abstain and let the resolution pass to ratchet up pressure on Iran. But they anticipate a struggle. The resolution puts heavy pressure on Russia, which is helping Iran build a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, to stop its aid.
“On the strategic objective, there’s nothing between the six of us. We do not want to see an Iran with a nuclear weapon capability,” said Emyr Jones Parry, Britain’s ambassador the U.N. “On the detail of the resolution, there have been exchanges of views and those will continue.”
The foreign ministers of Germany and the five permanent Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- are to meet on Iran in New York on Monday. The ambassadors from the U.S., France and Russia said they hoped there was agreement on the resolution by then.
In Washington, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Bush met at the White House. Saying afterward that Iran was a chief topic of their conversation, Merkel said Germany “fully agreed” that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, but did not comment on whether she pressed Bush to hold direct talks with the Iranians.
Tehran insists that it has the right to develop a peaceful nuclear program under U.N. treaties and cannot be forced to stop it. The U.S., Britain and France suspect that Iran is pursuing technology to build nuclear weapons. They say the country has forfeited any right to nuclear research by building its program in secret for nearly two decades and defying the U.N.'s recent call to suspend its activities.
Iran ignored the Security Council’s nonbinding request March 29 that it suspend its nuclear enrichment program within 30 days.
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported Friday that Iran had forged ahead with its nuclear program and successfully enriched uranium to 3.6%, within the range needed to fuel a power plant, but far from the 80% to 90% needed for a nuclear weapon.
Times staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.