Britain and France have introduced a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would obligate Iran to halt its uranium enrichment activities. The United States strongly backs the measure. Western diplomats are hopeful the measure can be approved swiftly.
The resolution, which circulated among all Security Council members Wednesday, avoids any mention of sanctions against Iran. But it does invoke Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter, which carries the force of law.
The measure would set a deadline for Iranian compliance with previous demands by the Council and the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency to halt activities the West suspects are part of a secret atomic weapons program. The deadline is still being negotiated, but diplomats suggest it is likely to be 30 days, or early June.
U.S. envoy John Bolton said, while the proposed resolution does not include penalties, it could lead to future measures and targeted sanctions if Iran fails to comply. "We've made no secret about that, that if Iran doesn't back away from their conduct, which constitutes a threat to international peace and security, that the Council would be ready to take steps subsequently, the first of which would be targeted sanctions, and we don't exclude that we would take other steps in connection with sanctions outside the council as well," he said.
Bolton expressed hope the Council could act on the resolution before political directors of the permanent five Council members and Germany gather in New York next Monday for further talks on Iran.
British representative Emyr Jones-Parry said there is already broad agreement on the text of the measure. "We've been in discussion here and in capitals with our colleagues from Russia and China. It's quite clear 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," he said.
Russia and China have voiced objections to several provisions of the draft text, and when Chinese envoy Wang Guangya was asked by reporters Wednesday whether he could support a legally-binding Chapter Seven resolution, he replied "no, no, no".
But after the Council met, Russia's new U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin hinted that Moscow might go along with the measure. He suggested a resolution might be useful in persuading Iran the Council was serious last month when it demanded that Iran cooperate more fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director, Mohamed ElBaradei.
"ElBaradei report was very good. It did show that the potential of cooperation between IAEA and Iran has not yet been exhausted at all, but the fact of the matter is that unfortunately, the message which was sent by presidential statement of the Security Council on March 29th has not been fully heard by Iran, so under such circumstances, the decision made to proceed with the drafting of the resolution," he said.
Iranian news agencies quoted foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi Wednesday as saying his country would not give up its legitimate right to nuclear technology because of America's "bullying and pressure".
Iran has repeatedly denied having a nuclear weapons program, and said its uranium enrichment activities are for peaceful purposes. Last month, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad confirmed that his country had joined the club of nuclear capable countries by enriching uranium to the level needed to fuel a power plant.