UNITED NATIONS, (AP) – The U.N. Security Council is certain to approve a third round of sanctions against Iran on Monday for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, but it’s doubtful the new measures will receive the unanimous support that the first two sanctions resolutions did.
The five permanent council members with veto power — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — are all backing the new resolution, and they have more than the nine “yes” votes needed for approval in the 15-member council.
But four non-permanent council members — Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam — have raised a variety of concerns.
Britain and France, who co-sponsored the resolution, put off the vote from Saturday until Monday to try to get them on board, but council diplomats said it was doubtful all four would vote in favor of the resolution.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said Thursday the resolution would definitely be approved, but he added: “We think the wider the base of support, the clearer the political signal” sent to Iran.
Libya’s U.N. Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi told reporters last Monday that he would vote against the draft resolution circulating at that time, which is very similar to the final draft. And Indonesia’s U.N. Ambassador Marty Natalegawa reiterated his country’s serious concerns on Thursday, saying the resolution “raised more questions than answers.”
One concern raised by the four countries is the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Feb. 22 that said suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest. The Libyan and Indonesian envoys stressed that this indicated progress, and questioned the need for additional sanctions.
The Americans and their European allies countered that the report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran has continued to enrich uranium, in defiance of Security Council resolutions. They continue to demand that Tehran suspend its uranium centrifuge program.
The IAEA also reported that Iran rejected new documents that link Tehran to missile and explosives experiments and other work connected to a possible nuclear weapons program.
Iran called the information false and irrelevant, and Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazee accused an Iranian opposition group listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union of feeding fabricated evidence to Washington. One council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, disputed his claim, saying the information came from an Iranian defector.
Iran insists its enrichment activities are intended only for peaceful, civilian purposes, but the U.S., the EU and others suspect its real aim is to produce atomic weapons.
Iran rejected the two previous Security Council resolutions as “illegal,” saying it will never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the IAEA report vindicated Iran’s nuclear program and left no justification for any Security Council sanctions — a view he reiterated Saturday in a television interview.
“We said from the beginning that it was a political pretext not a legal and technical issue,” Ahmadinejad said.
Britain, France and Germany have also drafted a critical resolution for this week’s IAEA meeting that was expected to be supported by the majority of board members, according to diplomats who requested anonymity because their information was confidential. There were concerns, however, that opposition by nations that have backed Iran in the nuclear dispute could lead to divisive debate.
The draft Security Council resolution would freeze the assets of about a dozen companies and a dozen individuals with links to Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs. It would require countries to “exercise vigilance” and report the travel or transit of those individuals.
It would also impose a travel ban on several individuals linked to Iran’s nuclear effort.
For the first time, the resolution would ban trade with Iran in goods that have both civilian and military uses. It would introduce financial monitoring on two banks with suspected links to proliferation activities, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat.
The draft resolution also calls on all countries “to exercise vigilance” in entering into new trade commitments with Iran. It also would authorize inspections of shipments to and from Iran by sea and air that are suspected of carrying prohibited goods.
On a positive note, the resolution welcomes Iran’s agreement with the IAEA to resolve all outstanding issues about its past nuclear program “and progress in this regard.” It reiterates that the package of incentives offered by the five permanent council nations and Germany in June 2006 remains on the table if Iran suspends enrichment.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the resolution will be accompanied by a statement from the foreign ministers of the six countries strongly emphasizing their “continued efforts of the six toward a diplomatic and political solution of this matter.”