The Bush administration said Monday it wants the U.N. Security Council to vote within a matter of days on a resolution putting sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the issue by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government has resisted some proposed punitive steps against Tehran. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The Security Council initially set an August 31 deadline on Iran to stop enrichment or face penalties.
But big-power negotiations over a sanctions resolution have dragged on, and an increasingly frustrated Bush administration is now serving notice that it wants to see the process completed within a few days.
The latest draft under debate at the U.N. is understood to ban the sale or provision to Iran of materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs, and also impose a travel ban and asset freeze on senior Iranian figures in those programs.
News reports say Russia, which has extensive financial dealings with Iran, has had concerns about targeting certain Iranian companies for sanctions and has also opposed the envisaged travel ban.
The remaining problem issues were the focus of the telephone conversation Monday between Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Lavrov.
Briefing reporters afterward, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. officials are hopeful a resolution can be brought to a vote in the very near future, and that such action is needed "in a matter of days."
He said recent Iranian government action including its hosting of a conference of deniers of the World War Two Nazi extermination campaign against the Jews should be more than enough incentive to act against Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"You don't need any other reason than taking a look at Iran's behavior last week, the behavior of this regime in sponsoring the conference that was aimed at denying the existence of the Holocaust. Pair that up with the idea that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons," he said.
"Pair those two ideas up with [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's statement that he wants to wipe Israel off the face of the map, and I don't think you need any more reason than to raise your hand in the affirmative and vote for the resolution that we have right now," he continued.
A senior diplomat who spoke to reporters here said Lavrov made no commitment to allow a vote on an Iran resolution within a few days.
But the U.S. official said that sometimes "forcing the issue" has a way of focusing peoples' efforts.
He said he thinks Rice and her Russian counterpart want to try to work through the problems, and that neither country wants to see Iran have nuclear weapons. He said the two have "honest differences of opinion" over the tactics to achieve that aim.
The five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany offered Iran a package of incentives in June if it stopped enrichment and returned to negotiations over its nuclear program.
But President Ahmadinejad, while declaring that Iran's nuclear intentions are peaceful, has refused to stop enrichment and has said his government is not intimidated by the prospect of sanctions.