Diplomats of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany are to confer by telephone Thursday in another try at agreeing on further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. U.S. officials say chances for a third sanctions resolution by year's end are nil. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The State Department says Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns will hold a conference call with counterparts from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany Thursday in another effort to finalize terms of a third sanctions resolution against Iran.
The United States has been in negotiations with the other veto-wielding Security Council members and Germany, the so-called P5-plus-1, on new sanctions since Iran ignored the 60-day deadline to halt uranium enrichment contained in the last sanctions measure, adopted in late March.
The P5-plus-1 political directors held an inconclusive 90-minute conference call on Tuesday last week. Officials here concede that even if remaining issues are resolved in Thursday's conference, there is no chance of submitting a new resolution to the council before January.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week the United States has tactical differences with Russia and China over a new resolution, but she also said the need for further sanctions has not been obviated by the December 3 U.S. intelligence report which said Iran stopped a covert nuclear weapons program in 2003.
State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said Tuesday the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate should in some ways raise the level of concern about Iran, which has denied ever seeking a nuclear weapons capability.
"It is clear by the assessment that's been made that there has been or was an active nuclear weapons program that Iran was engaged in," he said. "The fact that it has been set aside in terms of the effort to make a warhead or make a specific nuclear device, does nothing to take away from the fact that they continue to work full-tilt towards two of the other key components necessary for having a weapon. That's its very active and continuing missile program, and efforts to master the fuel cycle."
The Bush administration supports a two-track strategy of increased sanctions against Iran if it refuses to halt enrichment, but diplomatic and other benefits if it complies with the Security Council, including aid for its nominally-peaceful nuclear power program.
Russia this week began delivering fuel to the nuclear power plant it has completed for Iran at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf under terms mandating the return of all spent fuel to Russia.
The Bush administration this week reaffirmed support for the arrangement, which Casey said shows Iran doesn't really need a complete nuclear fuel cycle:
"The fact that Iran has a guaranteed source of fuel that's economically-viable, that would allow it to achieve its supposed objectives through its civilian nuclear program makes it pretty clear to most of us that there really isn't a need for them to be moving forward with these kinds of activities, again, unless their ultimate intention is to use it to build a nuclear weapon," he added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry Monday expressed a similar view, saying the Bushehr deliveries mean Iran has "no objective need" for its own uranium enrichment program.
Tehran however said it would not stop its enrichment drive and that it has begun construction of a second power reactor in southwestern Iran.
News reports say the new sanctions measure being discussed by the P5-plus-1 would be much broader in scope than the resolutions of March and December 2006.
The Washington Post said last week the new measures under discussion would call for asset freezes and travel bans against Iranian individuals and entities believed engaged in nuclear proliferation, including the Quds Force, the foreign operations branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.