UNITED NATIONS, AP – Britain and France, two leading advocates for a tough U.N. Security Council statement on Iran’s nuclear program, urged quick action Wednesday, though they still haven’t bridged differences with Russia and China about the best way to address fears that Tehran may be seeking a nuclear bomb.
The latest meeting of the five veto-wielding members of the council yielded no major progress on the dispute between Britain, France and the United States on the one hand, and China and Russia on the other. Those two nations want to proceed far more cautiously.
While the five veto-wielding council members are united against Iran developing nuclear weapons, they disagree on how to get Tehran to comply with demands by the U.N. nuclear watchdog to stop all enrichment and reprocessing and answer questions about its nuclear program.
Uranium enrichment can be used either in the generation of electricity or to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is to produce nuclear energy but the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised concerns that Tehran might be seeking nuclear arms.
Despite the disputes, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said he hoped for a deal by sometime next week that could lead to council action.
“We are eager to see a clear statement by the council at the earliest date,” he told reporters. “By this time next week I will be disappointed if we have not got something on the table of the council.”
All 15 members of the Security Council planned a second round of informal consultations away from the council chamber on Thursday afternoon to discuss proposals that had been circulated Tuesday.
One of the proposals would express “the conviction that continued Iranian enrichment-related activity would intensify international concern.” Another would reaffirm that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction “constitutes a threat to international peace and security.”
Yet Russia and China may not want to even go that far. Instead, they have said they seek a very simple statement from the council reaffirming that the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, bears primary responsibility for the Iran issue.
The dispute reflects a difference of opinion about how to handle Iran.
Russia and China, allies of Tehran, are not as skeptical of its intentions and believe that tough council action could lead Iran to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and expel inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The United States and its allies believe Security Council action will put pressure on Iran and could lead to tougher measures later on, such as sanctions.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said the council needs to “put its weight” behind the IAEA demand that Iran stop uranium enrichment. Such council action will help “show that the international community is serious,” he said.
He also reiterated the French and British demand for a timetable that Iran would have to obey. British and French proposals have included a demand that IAEA chief Mohamed Elbaradei report back to it on Iran’s progress, possibly within two weeks, but Russia and China have resisted.
De La Sabliere revealed a growing impatience with the slow progress in the council, which has made little headway toward action on Iran after a week of considering the issue.
“There is a little time to discuss, but not too much — time is running out,” de La Sabliere said. “What is happening on the ground in Iran is a reason for us to act swiftly.”