Six world powers are jointly asking the U.N. Security Council to toughen sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt suspicious nuclear activities. But as correspondent Peter Heinlein reports, Iran's leader denounced the sanctions, and asked to address the Council.
The five-veto wielding Security Council powers and Germany agreed Thursday on a new package of sanctions against Iran, and immediately asked the rest of the Council members to approve them. No date was set for a vote, but it could come as early as next week.
The Council first ordered penalties against Iran in December, after it defied an earlier demand to suspend uranium enrichment.
The latest draft resolution obtained by VOA increases those penalties. It includes an embargo on Iranian weapons export, and expands the list of individuals and entities covered by an assets freeze and travel restrictions, including some individuals and organizations that are part of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The draft contains the same 60-day compliance deadline as previous resolutions, after which time other sanctions could be imposed. But it allows for a quick end to sanctions once Iran meets the terms of the resolutions.
British Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry presented the sanctions package to the Council, hailing it as an incremental approach to increasing diplomatic pressure on Iran.
"It's upping the pressure, but at the same time saying, this process is reversible if Iran actually accepts the conditions," said Emyr Jones-Parry. "So the ball remains in Iran's court. We want, would prefer, a diplomatic solution to this, but it requires Iran to stop enrichment and research and development."
Iran has repeatedly denied it has a nuclear weapons program, saying its uranium enrichment is aimed at producing electricity.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Thursday warned the West that new sanctions would fail. He called the proposed Security Council resolution "a torn piece of paper", and said it would not have any effect on Iran's will.
But while he ridiculed the sanctions, there were signs that the Iranian leader is deeply concerned about their effect. The Security Council president for March, South Africa's Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo says he received a letter from Iran's U.N. envoy Thursday asking that Mr. Ahmadinejad be allowed to address the Council when it votes on the sanctions measure.
"The letter is very specific that he wants to come at a time when resolution is being adopted because the delegation of Iran is allowed to participte, and they have indicated the delegation would be led by the president," said Dumisani Kumalo.
A State Department spokesman said this week that if Mr. Ahmadinejad applies for a visa, the United States would be inclined to routinely grant the request in keeping with the host country agreement.
Nevertheless, Washington's U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff described the possibility of an appearance by the Iranian leader as 'ironic'.
"I find it ironic that a person who is quoted today as saying that he tears up Security Council resolution and has no respect for what the council does, is interested in coming to speak to the Council," said Alejandro Wolff.
Ambassador Wolff said the text presented to the full Security Council was not 'perfect', but said he was 'satisfied with the compromise outcome'.
While the backing of all five veto-wielding Council members indicates almost certain approval of the sanctions, Council President Kumalo of South Africa signaled Thursday that passage might be delayed, at least for some days. He said the ten elected Council members, which have been sidelined during talks among the major powers, would also want to review the document, and might ask for changes before it is put to a vote.