The attempt by the United States and European powers to impose U.N. sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activities is running into obstacles. Even the strongest backers of a proposed sanctions resolution disagree about how tough it should be.
The United States served notice Wednesday that it wants tougher sanctions on Iran than those proposed in a draft Security Council resolution proposed by European powers Britain, France and Germany.
The European draft was circulated among the five permanent Council members this week, and consultations are scheduled to begin Thursday. Excerpts shown to VOA call for mild sanctions, including a ban on missile and nuclear technology transfers to Iran.
The United States and the European powers favor prompt action to punish Iran for failing to heed the Council's demand to halt uranium enrichment. France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere called the measure a firm but reversible response to Iran's defiance of previous Council resolutions. "It is a response which is focused. It's firm and focuses on sensitive nuclear activities, and we always said that should Iran change its position and resume its suspension of enrichment, Council will lift the sanctions, so it is reversible," he said.
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, who holds the Council presidency for October, predicts sanctions will not be imposed this month. He says forging a consensus is likely to be much more difficult and lengthy than the penalties on North Korea adopted earlier in the month. "Two sanctions resolutions would be a bit much for one presidency," he said.
Security Council diplomats say one focus of the consultations is a U.S. demand that the sanctions cover the sale of fuel and technology for the Bushehr nuclear reactor Russia is building in southwestern Iran. In an attempt to gain Russia's support, the current draft exempts Bushehr from the sanctions, despite U.S. calls that the project be halted entirely.
Moscow's deputy U.N. Ambassador Konstantin Dolgov told VOA Wednesday the Bushehr plant is being built in full compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international obligations.
"On Bushehr, we said it many times. It is continuing, because it is in full respect of our obligations under NPT, but secondly it is absolutely transparent. It has nothing to do with the remaining issues on the Iranian nuclear file," he said.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier said Moscow would block any effort to penalize Iran for its nuclear program. In an interview last week, Lavrov said there is no evidence Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
Chinese diplomats Wednesday also signalled Beijing's opposition to sanctions. A senior official at China's U.N. mission said it is "premature" to speak of imposing penalties on Iran.