London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A high-level official at the US State Department has asserted that there is uncertainty regarding the date for the UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Iran and explained to Asharq al-Awsat that the consultations between the United States and its allies are continuing and that the matter needs some patience. The official said the sanctions would focus on civilian and military dual use materials.
The remarks came as the major countries discussed yesterday the nature of the sanctions to be imposed on Iran. Informed sources said there are about 15 possible sanctions that could be imposed on Tehran in an attempt to deter it from continuing to develop its nuclear program. According to an initial 2-page draft about the sanctions, these would be imposed in two stages. The first will concentrate on freezing assets and banning any trade with Iran connected to the Iranian nuclear or ballistic programs. Should Iran refuse to comply, the United States would then seek measures that could affect Iran’s economy and government. But Tehran did not demonstrate yesterday any worries about these threats and Iranian President Ahmadinejad said his country would not give up the enrichment of uranium, accusing the countries pressing to punish Iran as “ones practicing thuggery.”
The US official went on to say that discussions about the date for the UNSC meeting on Iran started during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to London last week, adding that plans are underway to agree on a specific date. The official, who is unable to be identified, pointed out that several factors are needed for setting a date, among them coordination between the United States and its allies. He noted that “there is still uncertainty” about the date but stressed that Rice asserted that the administration would be patient during the talks.
Regarding the Russian-Chinese stand on the possible imposition of sanctions on Tehran, the US official said: “Russia and China signed UNSC Resolution 1696. One of this resolution’s clauses says sanctions are one of the options that the international community should think of as punishment for Tehran’s refusal to comply with the demand to stop uranium enrichment.” He pointed out that the sanctions option was not the best one and the inclination was to continue the negotiations with Tehran. He held the latter responsible for the suspension of the negotiations because of its insistence on continuing the enrichment. He said Tehran did not exploit the offer that Rice presented in August and which called for Washington’s participation in direct talks with Tehran besides the European countries concerning the economic, political, and security incentives package on condition of freezing the enrichment, a condition that Tehran rejected.
As to the other scenarios before the US administration if the UNSC failed to agree to impose sanctions, the US official said: “It is difficult to foretell what will happen. We must move step by step and wait to see what happens.” He added that consultations are continuing to agree on the sanctions list and the final list would be announced on time. He pointed out that the sanctions would most probably focus on civilian and military dual use materials, which could be used to develop the nuclear program. He stressed that the sanctions would not include ones that are bound to affect the Iranian people.
The US official then ruled out a resumption of negotiations with Tehran at present as long as it does not stop the enrichment, saying the Iranian president’s calls to resume negotiations now “is procrastination.” He denied that there are any direct contacts between Washington and Tehran, saying “this has been the case for years. We are unfortunately like two ships crossing the same river without meeting.” He mentioned that the contacts between Tehran and Washington in connection with the nuclear dossier and other issues go through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran that is looking after the US interests and also, according to him, through the media that carries the two sides’ viewpoints on various issues.
Regarding the regional fears from Iran’s reaction if sanctions were imposed on it and the likelihood of retaliating against Washington by influencing events in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, the US official said this has been taken into account and pointed out that no one wants the confrontation or escalation. He added that there is coordination between the United States and the countries in the region about the Iranian issue to examine all the developments.