The Obama administration Friday rejected suggestions that it is watering down its terms for new U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, in order to win Russian and Chinese support for a new resolution. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will discuss the issue with fellow foreign ministers of the big-power G8 grouping next week in Canada.
Officials here acknowledge differences of opinion among the five veto-wielding permanent Security Council member countries on what a new sanctions resolution should contain.
But State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley says there were significant inaccuracies in U.S. newspaper reports this week that the United States is backing away from an insistence on tough penalties against Iran to preserve a Security Council consensus.
Crowley said that since a draft resolution has not been officially brought up for debate in the council, it cannot be said to have been watered down. "We think once we get to that point, and assuming we do get a strong resolution with appropriate measures, it is going to send a very powerful signal to Iran that it cannot ignore. But since we have not circulated a draft resolution, it's hard to say at this point that we are watering anything down, there's nothing to water down, there's nothing to take off the table," he said.
Earlier at the White House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there will be increasing diplomatic activity on Iran sanctions in the very near future, on developing sanctions language that can muster the necessary votes in the Security Council.
Spokesman Crowley said this will include meetings on the sidelines of foreign ministers meetings of the G-8 industrial powers and the five Arctic region countries next Monday and Tuesday in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
Previewing the Ottawa meetings Friday, Canadian Foreign Minister Laurence Cannon told reporters his government believes that given Iranian behavior, the world community seems to be left with no alternative but new sanctions. "I will discuss with my G8 colleagues what we can do to put additional pressure on Iran to persuade it to stop its nuclear enrichment activities and convince the Iranian authorities to come back to the table. Unfortunately, I believe we are left with little choice but to pursue additional sanctions against Iran, ideally through the United Nations Security Council," he said.
State Department Spokesman Crowley refused to be specific about alleged inaccuracies in news reports about the sanctions process.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the administration has backed away from proposed sanctions that would have choked off Iran's access to international banking services, and closed international airspace and shipping lanes to Iranian commercial ships and aircraft.
Crowley said the United States wants to focus on financial holdings of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, as part of a resolution that puts an appropriate bite on the Tehran government but spares the Iranian people undue hardship.
Among permanent council members, China is understood to be the most reluctant to embrace what would be a fourth sanctions resolution, though Crowley said the United States is satisfied with the level of engagement of all countries involved in the contacts.
China took part in a telephone conference call of senior diplomats of the P-Five-plus-One, the five permanent Security Council members and Germany, on Iran Wednesday.