The U.N. Security Council has started work on a draft resolution that would legally require Iran to comply with international demands to stop all uranium enrichment activities. But the idea of a legally binding resolution faces stiff opposition.
Informal consultations among the 15-member Security Council began Monday in search of a common position on Iran's controversial nuclear program.
Last month, the Council ordered International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei to assess Iran's uranium enrichment activities and report back by April 28. That assessment was ordered after the atomic agency urged Tehran to suspend its enrichment program.
Iranian leaders have since indicated they are pushing ahead with their nuclear program, saying it is intended only for peaceful purposes.
Washington's U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, says if the ElBaradei report confirms that Iran's enrichment activities are continuing, the United States and others will push for a legally binding resolution under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter.
"We're going to be discussing this week what the possible responses to the April 28th report will be," said John Bolton. "But our expectation will be assuming no change of direction by Iran, and there is no reason to assume a change of direction, that we'll look at a Chapter Seven resolution to make mandatory all of the existing IAEA resolutions."
But U.N. diplomats have expressed doubt that the Security Council would approve any legally binding action against Iran. Veto-wielding Council members China and Russia have publicly expressed opposition to such measures.
When asked Monday whether Beijing would remain opposed to a so-called "Chapter Seven" resolution, China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, said "Definitely yes."
"On the Iran issue, I don't think that it would be a productive move," said Wang Guangya.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad vowed Monday to press ahead with uranium enrichment on an industrial scale, saying he does not expect the Security Council to adopt sanctions.
U.S. Ambassador Bolton spoke dismissively of Mr. Ahmedinejad's prediction and said he intends to push ahead with a Chapter Seven resolution. He called it a test.
"I wasn't aware that President Ahmedinejad was an expert on the Security Council," he said. "I don't know what the Security Council will do. I've said repeatedly we think this is a test for the Security Council, and we're going to take it step by step. The first step would be the Chapter Seven resolution making the Board Of Governors resolutions mandatory.
China's Ambassador Wang, however, said Beijing favors sending the matter back to the IAEA Board of Governors before the Security Council resumes its consideration. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told VOA Monday he, too, favors a cautious approach.
"We expect a report from Mr. ElBaradei before the end of this month, probably in the course of the week," noted Kofi Annan. "And that report will have to be studied very carefully and then the Council will determine which way it goes."
U.S. officials say there is likely to be a meeting of senior diplomats from the five Security Council members in Paris in the coming days to determine a strategy on Iran. A similar meeting was held last week in Moscow.
President Bush signaled last week the kind of Security Council action he is hoping for. During a joint news conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, he said the United States wants a legally binding resolution declaring Iran a threat to international peace and security.
But the comment got no endorsement from the Chinese leader. Mr. Hu would only say that Beijing is ready to work with Washington to address the issue through diplomatic means.