Russia is demanding wholesale changes to a European proposal to impose U.N. sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. Talks on a sanctions resolution are expected to go on for weeks.
Ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council members and Germany met in New York Friday for their first look at Russia's counterproposal to the European sanctions plan. The meeting adjourned after an hour, with no date set for another session.
The European draft would prohibit all countries from supplying nuclear or ballistic missile-related technology to Iran. It also imposes a travel ban and asset freeze on companies, individuals and organizations involved in those Iranian programs.
America's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton called the proposed Russian changes "extensive", and said Washington will offer its own version of the sanctions plan. "The Russians gave us a complete, line in, line out version of edits, and I said the United States would have some other suggestions to make, and in light of the extent of the Russian changes, we've decided we will refer all these back to capitals and meet again at some later date," he said.
Other diplomats said the negotiations could go on for weeks, even months.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier criticized the European proposal as too harsh.
Moscow's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who just returned from consultations with Lavrov, says Russia's counterproposal is much shorter than the European version. He said Russia wants any Security Council resolution to be designed to bring Iran back to the negotiating table, and not to be punitive.
"The resolution we are discussing now should on the one hand preclude situations where people and countries could be helping Iranians developing uranium enrichment, in developing means of delivering nuclear weapons. But at the same time, it should leave the doors open for our talks with the Iranians, and should not contain things which have no useful purpose but will simply lead people away from the goal of negotiated outcome," he said.
Churkin objected specifically to references in the European proposal to the nuclear power plant Russia is building at Bushehr in Iran.
The European proposal would exempt the Bushehr plant from an overall ban on supplying nuclear material or technology to Iran, but Churkin wants all mention of Bushehr dropped.
"We do believe Bushehr project does not have anything to do with concerns about non proliferation because it is clearly a peaceful nuclear power plant we are helping the Iranians to build. In doing that we are acting in full conformity with the non-proliferation treaty," he said.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya signalled that Beijing backs Moscow's softer approach. He says China views the European proposal as "too tough", and says Beijing is concerned that sanctions might push Iran into a corner.
Russia and China have continued to resist moves to punish Iran, even after the collapse of European Union efforts to resume stalled nuclear talks. The sanctions proposal was drafted after Iran rejected earlier U.N. demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, aimed only at generating electricity.