The U.N. Security Council has taken the first step in confronting Iran about its controversial nuclear program. The Council gave Tehran 30 days to suspend uranium enrichment activity.
A statement approved by the full Council Wednesday is far milder than its sponsors had hoped.
During negotiations, language was dropped that would have characterized Iran's nuclear program as a threat to international peace and security, thereby establishing the Council's jurisdiction over the matter. Russia and China, which favor a more lenient approach to Iran, argued Tehran's nuclear activity should be dealt with by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, not the Security Council.
In the end, sponsors Britain, France and Germany, along with the United States, relented in order to get a statement adopted before their top diplomats meet in Berlin Thursday. That gathering will focus on longer term strategies for preventing Iran from pushing ahead with its nuclear enrichment program.
While some of the strongest language was deleted, the statement calls on International Atomic Energy Agency Director Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the Council on Iran's compliance with its obligations within 30 days.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he is confident the statement sends a strong message to Tehran.
"Iran has 30 days, and we hope Iran will comply," said Jean-Marc de La Sabliere. "If Iran complies, it will pave the way for a negotiated solution that guarantees the nuclear program of Iran is for solely for peaceful uses. If Iran doesn't comply, then the Security Council will receive a report from ElBaradei, will have to take its responsibilities."
Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton emerged from the final negotiating session saying the Council was sending an unmistakable message to Iran that, in his words, "its efforts to deny the obvious fact of what they are doing are not going to be sufficient".
"This is simply a statement that says to Iran, you have consistently disobeyed resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency, violated your safeguards agreements, you've violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, you must now come into compliance, and if in 30 days that hasn't happened, and we expect a report from the IAEA director general, in 30 days the Security Council will be competent and ready to act," said John Bolton.
The statement adopted Wednesday is the product of three weeks of intense negotiations among the Security Council's five permanent members.
Moscow's U.N. Ambassador Andrey Denisov said Russia had demanded removal of stronger language until the IAEA provides stronger proof of Iran's nuclear intentions.
"When you talk of threat to international peace and security, you must have strong, clear and legally- approved evidence, we don't have such evidence," said Andrey Denisov. "That is a purpose why we use International Atomic Energy Agency as a watchdog, specially designed to provide such clarification, such verification, such approval. "
Iran's U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif ridiculed the Council statement. Speaking to reporters, he reiterated Tehran's position that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.
"Iran's commitment to the non-proliferation regime is categorical," said Javad Zarif. "We always made it clear that Iran is committed to its obligations because they are based in our historical and religious edicts. We have made it clear that at the highest level, Iran does not want nuclear weapons, nor does it want to pursue development, stockpiling or acquisition of these inhuman weapons."
The Iranian envoy vowed that his country would not bow to international pressure to curb its nuclear activities.
"Pressure and threats do not work on Iran," he said. "Iran is allergic to pressure and threats and intimidation."
A statement issued by Iran's foreign ministry Tuesday had warned that Security Council intervention would escalate tensions and have negative consequences.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday called the Security Council's action "an important diplomatic step" that shows Tehran to be "more isolated than ever". She said she was looking forward to Thursday's Berlin meeting to explore further action on Iran.