The United States, Britain and France are turning up the heat for additional sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program. The U.N. Ambassadors of the three western powers told their partners on the Security Council Thursday that the Islamic Republic has done nothing to lessen international concerns about the possible military dimension of its nuclear program.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the recent report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reinforced fears that Iran is acting deceitfully.
"While existing measures have had some effect, they have not yet led Iran to change course on its nuclear activities. That is clear from the most recent report of the IAEA, whose charge sheet against Iran is getting longer with each report. It reinforces our fears that Iran is acting duplicitously and illegally," he said.
He and the French and American ambassadors laid out a long list of Iranian non-compliance with the five existing Security Council resolutions and violations of IAEA safeguard measures.
Those charges include Iran's failure to suspend uranium enrichment and heavy water programs as required by the Security Council; its recent declaration that it is has increased its stockpile of low enriched uranium and is moving to raise its enrichment capability to 20 percent; the revelation that it built a secret enrichment facility at Qom and has plans to build 10 more such plants; its lack of cooperation with the IAEA on outstanding issues for more than a year and a half; and its rejection of an IAEA offer to provide fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice noted that four years have passed since the IAEA referred the Iranian nuclear file to the Security Council. She said Iran continues to flout its international obligations.
"Unfortunately, these ongoing violations and this behavior show a continued pattern of disregard by the Government of Iran for the clear and serious concerns over its nuclear program expressed by the international community," she said.
Ambassador Rice said in light of Iran's continued non-compliance, the Council must now consider further measures. She was supported by France's deputy ambassador (Nicolas de Riviere) who said the IAEA report on Iran was "damning" and the "time is up" for Iran and no other choice remained other than to seek a new sanctions resolution in the coming weeks.
The five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany have been following a two-track approach, both diplomatically engaging and pressuring Iran to encourage its compliance.
Russia has been less hesitant recently about new sanctions, as long as the door of dialogue remains opens. But China, which has close oil and economic ties with Iran, has been much more reluctant. China's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Liu Zhenmin is heard here through a translator:
"We believe sanctions are not an end in themselves. In no way can they provide a fundamental solution to this issue. Therefore, diplomatic negotiations and peaceful settlement still remain the best choice in this regard," said the Chinese ambassador.
Both China and Russia have urged Iran to accept a proposal from the IAEA in which Tehran would ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia and France for further processing into fuel for a medical research reactor. Western powers say Iran's failure to respond positively to that offer shows its true nuclear intentions are military, not peaceful.
Should a new sanctions resolution come before the council soon, China's support may not be the only council member's in question. Among the 10 non-permanent members, the support of Brazil, Lebanon and Turkey is widely believed to be uncertain. A resolution would require nine of the 15 members to vote in favor, and none of the veto-wielding members to vote against.
Ambassador Rice dismissed as false recent news reports that the U.S. had circulated a draft resolution among its council colleagues in New York.