UNITED NATIONS, (AP) -The United States and three European nations moved closer to agreement with Russia and China on another package of sanctions against Iran that are not nearly as harsh as Washington and its allies would have liked.
The Security Council may vote on the proposed sanctions by the end of the week, the U.S. envoy to the world body said.
Council diplomats say the six powers — including Britain, France and Germany — have ruled out a ban on international travel by Iranian officials involved in nuclear and missile development. They also are unlikely to ban arms imports or export credit guarantees for companies doing business in Iran.
But diplomats say the new sanctions resolution is expected to include an embargo on arms exports, a ban on government loans to Iran and an asset freeze on more individuals and companies linked to Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs.
“It’s a package approach, and so there are things that we’re very pleased about, and things that we’re less pleased about — and likewise for probably every delegation involved,” said acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff.
The United States and the Europeans favored all the measures but Russia and China, which have close commercial ties with Iran, are reluctant to impose tough new sanctions.
The measures are intended to force Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, which Washington and some allies say is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Iran, which has the second largest oil and gas reserves in the world, says it’s enriching uranium for power stations.
On Monday, the ambassadors emerged from a closed-door meeting optimistic but also cautious because of potential problems with every proposal in the package.
“This is the best meeting we have had since the beginning of these negotiations,” said France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere. “We are now very close, and we have made today (much) progress.”
Wolff said ambassadors would report to their capitals on the possible elements for a new resolution.
“There are still some concerns, and some delegations have not given full agreement. But we have, I think, made overall good progress,” he said.
“If everything goes well, our hope would be to get it done by the end of the week — a vote,” the U.S. envoy said.
In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs, and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
Iran responded by expanding its enrichment program, provoking proposals for new sanctions. Except for Germany, the nations involved in the negotiations are permanent members of the Security Council, a status that entitles them to veto power.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said the six countries agreed to impose an embargo on arms exports from Iran — but not on imports. The six are still debating whether to ask the 191 other U.N. members states to “exercise vigilance or restraint” in selling seven categories of heavy weapons to Iran.
There also appears to be agreement on expanding the list of individuals and entities subject to an asset freeze. Li Junhua, a senior diplomat in China’s U.N. mission, said a much bigger list of individuals and entities was now being studied by the six governments in their capitals.
Wolff said “one of the trickiest issues that we’re still discussing” is a proposal to freeze the assets of companies controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which oversee vital Iranian interests including oil and natural gas installations and the nation’s missile arsenal.
Russia has raised concerns that mentioning the Revolutionary Guards would amount to censuring the entire institution.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin cautioned about possible problems saying “the devil is in the details.”
To win unanimous council approval of the December resolution, a mandatory travel ban was dropped.
The resolution that was adopted calls on all states “to exercise vigilance” regarding the entry or transit through their territory of the Iranians on the U.N. list. It asks U.N. member states to notify the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions when those Iranians show up in their country.
Li said the new resolution would generally follow that language, calling on countries to “exercise vigilance and restraint.”
In the financial area, China has resisted proposed cutbacks on loan guarantees for companies doing business in Iran, a measure strongly supported by the United States.
Wang indicated that the only financial or trade measure likely to be approved is the ban on government loans to Iran.
“This is an incremental effort to try to get Iran back to negotiations by suspending its enrichment activities and in addition demonstrating that violating U.N. Security Council resolutions and remaining in non-compliance comes with a price,” Wolff said.