A senior State Department official said Monday the credibility of the U.N. Security Council is at stake in efforts to come up with new sanctions resolution against Iran over its nuclear program. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns spoke at the U.N. in New York, where intensive consultations on a new resolution will be held this week. VOA's David Gollust reports from the United Nations.
Burns, the third-ranking State Department official, says he will meet with fellow political directors from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany twice this week in New York - in advance of a ministerial-level meeting of the so-called P Five plus One to be hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday.
The Security Council has passed two relatively mild sanctions resolutions against Iran because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and return to international negotiations over its nuclear program, which the United States and European allies believe includes a secret weapons component.
In a talk with reporters at U.N. headquarters, Burns said a 4.5-hour political directors' meeting at the State Department last Friday was constructive but did not produce agreement on a new draft resolution, reportedly because of Russian and Chinese reluctance to boost sanctions.
Burns said the same grouping will meet on the sidelines of the new U.N. General Assembly both Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to come to an agreement in advance of Friday's ministerial, and he warned that the world's body's prestige is on the line in that effort:
"The credibility of the Security Council is at stake, and of the United Nations," said Nicholas Burns. "There have been three resolutions passed in a year: 16-96 [passed] on July 31st of 2006, and 17-37 and 17-47, the last two sanctions resolutions. Iran is not in compliance," said Nicholas Burns. "And so it's up to the United Nations now to take its responsibilities and to help bring Iran into compliance through diplomatic means, in this case sanctions resolutions."
Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, an assertion reiterated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his speech Monday at New York's Columbia University. He said the controversial nuclear project is only for electricity generation and that Iran's Islamic government doesn't believe in nuclear weapons.
Russia and China are understood to be resisting both the scope and timing of new punitive measures being proposed by the Bush administration, preferring to let diplomatic contacts with Iran being conducted by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamad el-Baradei run their course.
After last Friday's meeting of the P Five plus One, U.S. and European officials said they were preparing to impose their own sanctions against Iran if the drive for a tough new U.N. resolution fails.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency in New York Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration is considering a range of new sanctions against Iran, including a measure targeting the elite Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
Individual leaders of the Quds force and entities controlled by the organization are already under U.S. travel and economic sanctions but Rice said administration officials are looking into what can be done against the Quds force as a whole.
The United States accused the Quds force of training and equipping insurgents in Iraq who have targeted U.S. troops, charges Iran denies.