US, UK, France Poised to Seek New Sanctions Against Iran

US, UK and France say they will seek new sanctions against Iran if it does not comply with existing UN Security Council resolutions demanding that it end uranium-enriching activities and come to the negotiating table. Discussion of new sanctions resolution could begin early next year.

Japan's U.N. ambassador, who heads the Security Council Sanctions Committee on Iran, briefed the council on violations of existing resolutions that have taken place during the last three months.

Later, Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant outlined those violations to reporters.

"This report set out a pattern of violations by Iran of Security Council resolutions -- including the illegal export, two illegal exports, of shipments of arms from Iran in direct contradiction of resolution 1747," he said.  "And if you add this together with the continued uranium enrichment activities of Iran, in violation of Security Council resolutions -- of Iran's failure to answer questions to the IAEA about its weaponization activities, the revelation of a secret enrichment site at Qom, and Iran's rejection of the offer over the Tehran Nuclear Research Reactor -- then I think you can see there is clearly this pattern of violations of international obligations and an unwillingness of Iran to negotiate seriously with the international community over the nuclear issue," he said.

He said ministers in the group known as the P5 plus 1 - the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany - would be making their assessment in the coming weeks and that if it is negative, he would expect the council to take up the sanctions discussion in early January.

Iran denies Western charges that it is seeking to build nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program.  It has not complied with Security Council resolutions demanding it cease its enrichment activities.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud told the council that Iran is not respecting its international obligations and that there "is no longer any reason to wait" on pursuing new sanctions.  

"France considers that the time has come to increase this pressure," he said.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the council that the United States is committed to a dual-track approach regarding Iran -- engagement and pressure.

"But engagement cannot be a one-way street.  Iran must conclusively demonstrate a similar willingness to engage constructively and address the serious issues associated with its nuclear program," she stressed.  "The international community stands firm in its conviction that Iran must comply with its international obligations.  Should Iran continue to fail to meet its obligations, the international community will have to consider further actions," she said.

She told reporters that Iran's violations need to be treated "urgently and seriously" and that the United States is ready to turn up the pressure.  She said "time is short" and that the international community has not seen the kind of response from Iran that the United States thinks would be in Iran's best interest.

But Russia and China -- the other two permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council, and who have oil and trade ties with Iran -- were much more restrained in their remarks.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the parties need to remain "patient, calm and not emotional,"  while China's ambassador, Zhang Yesui, said there is still space for talks, noting that it "may require more time and patience on our part."

Asked whether those remarks signaled a lack of unity among the five permanent Security Council members, Ambassador Rice said she did not think so.

"The P5 has demonstrated repeatedly, most recently in Vienna at the IAEA Board of Governors, both unity and resolve with respect to Iran's nuclear program and the need for Iran to adhere to its international obligations.  They both reaffirmed that today."

But whether there is unity among the major players, diplomats say a possible new sanctions resolution will take several weeks, if not a couple months, to negotiate.

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