The International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, agency is expected to report Friday that Iran has failed to meet a deadline for complying with requests to suspend uranium enrichment. That finding sets the stage for a confrontation at the Security Council.
U.S. officials have already said they will ask for a legally-binding resolution under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter demanding Iran halt its uranium enrichment program. A Chapter Seven resolution would pave the way for possible penalties against Tehran, and leave the door open to future military action.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton says work on such a measure is already under way.
"We're going to consult," he said. "We have been consulting and we're going to continue to consult. But that's our intention at this point. It would be a Chapter Seven resolution, the first step of which would be to make mandatory the IAEA resolutions, particularly the February IAEA board resolution that called on Iran to suspend enrichment-related activities and other things. That would be the first step and we would be pushing for that as soon as possible."
But quick Council action on the measure is not likely. Powerful, veto holding members China and Russia oppose sanctions and have urged a go-slow approach in handling the Iran nuclear issue. China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, who holds the Council presidency this month, says Beijing wants the Atomic Energy Agency to take the lead role on the Iran issue. He suggested China would oppose any legally binding Chapter Seven resolution.
"Whenever Chapter seven is used, people all know the implications of what that means," he said.
On the eve of the IAEA report deadline, Iran remained defiant. In a meeting with several reporters, Tehran's U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif said his government would refuse to comply with any Security Council action aimed at halting its nuclear enrichment effort.
Iran has denied it wants to build a nuclear weapon, and said its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes.
Security Council diplomats say they intend to meet informally May 3 to discuss the way forward on Iran. In the meantime, political directors of the five Council member countries and Germany are to meet a day earlier in Paris for a strategy session.
Last month, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Iran to comply with IAEA demands for a "full and sustained suspension" of its uranium enrichment work. That non-binding measure was approved only after three weeks of difficult negotiations, and U.N. diplomats suggest talks on a legally binding resolution will be longer and more difficult.