Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States and other major powers have agreed on a draft resolution for new U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The announcement came a day after Iran accepted a Brazilian and Turkish-mediated deal to export some of its enriched-uranium stockpile.
Iran's acceptance of the uranium deal mediated by Brazil and Turkey had been widely viewed by analysts as an effort to blunt the U.S.-led drive in the U.N. Security Council for new sanctions.
But Clinton's surprise announcement in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made clear that momentum for what would be a fourth round of U.N. sanctions has not been slowed.
The secretary of state said the veto-wielding permanent Security Council member states, including pivotal members China and Russia, have agreed on a draft resolution, which will be circulated in the full 15-member council.
While avoiding criticism of efforts by Brazil and Turkey to reach the export deal with Iran, the Obama administration has made clear its skepticism that it would hamper what is seen here as an Iranian drive for nuclear weapons.
Clinton, opening Senate testimony on the new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms reduction treaty, said the Tehran accord leaves "a number of unanswered questions" and the sanctions agreement is as convincing an answer that could be provided to the Tehran announcement.
"Though we acknowledged the sincere efforts of both Turkey and Brazil to find a solution regarding Iran's stand-off with the international community over its unclear program, the P-5 Plus 1 - which consists, of course, of Russia, China the United States, the U.K., France and Germany along with the High Representative of the EU - are proceeding to rally the international community on behalf of a strong sanctions resolution that will in our view send an unmistakable message about what is expected from Iran," she said.
Monday in Tehran, Iran said it was accepting a variant of a big-power, confidence-building proposal made last November, under which it would export much of its low-enriched uranium stockpile in return for higher-enriched fuel for a Tehran research reactor.
But critics of the deal, described by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as a victory of diplomacy, noted it did not include a commitment by Iran to stop enrichment, and that Iran would retain enough of its uranium stocks to potentially build a weapon.
Introducing Clinton at the hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said given Iran's continued enrichment drive since last November, its acceptance of the offer now is less significant.
"As we know, during the course of the months since that original deal was put on the table, Iran has gone from about 1,800 kilograms to 2,300 kilograms [of enriched uranium], and so it is not the same deal," said Kerry. "And it is our understanding that the potential for a breakout to one nuclear weapon would exist during the time of this swap, absent further ingredients of a deal."
Clinton told Senators she had spoken with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, about the draft resolution. Moscow had said earlier it shared U.S. concerns about the Tehran accord.
Among the permanent Security Council member states, China has been the most reluctant to support new Iran sanctions, but U.S. officials have said China has been a full participant in U.N. sanctions negotiations.
Secretary Clinton attends a U.S.-China strategic and economic dialogue in Beijing next week.