UNITED NATIONS, (AP) – Negotiations on a U.S.-drafted resolution that would impose new sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend its nuclear enrichment program are making “good progress,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Thursday.
Diplomats familiar with the negotiations among six key powers said a draft resolution could be circulated to all Security Council members before the end of the month.
Rice told reporters that the six nations trying to hammer out a new resolution — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France who are permanent veto-wielding council members and Germany — have been working intensively in capitals and at the United Nations. She said the six countries met Wednesday and diplomats said another meeting was expected this week.
The stepped-up diplomatic activity is taking place during the monthlong review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at U.N. headquarters and ahead of a weekend visit to Tehran by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country is one of the 10 mon-permanent council members.
Silva has indicated a reluctance to support new sanctions against Iran and urged Western nations to negotiate a fair solution with the government.
Iran has launched a diplomatic offensive to try to get Security Council members to vote against new sanctions and U.S. officials think its leaders will use Silva’s trip to sabotage their effort to impose tough new measures.
Rice said Silva’s visit “is not impeding progress” by the six countries in reaching agreement on a fourth round of sanctions against Iran.
She said progress the six powers are making will perhaps strengthen Silva’s hand as he hopefully delivers a message to the Iranians “that pressure will intensify” unless they suspend enrichment and start negotiations on their suspect nuclear program.
Iran said this week that Brazil and Turkey, also a non-permanent council member, have offered a promising new proposal for a nuclear fuel deal.
A U.N.-backed plan that offered nuclear fuel rods for Tehran’s research reactor in exchange for Iran’s stock of lower-level enriched uranium was originally touted as a possible way to ease the standoff by temporarily curbing Iran’s capacity to make a nuclear bomb. But it hit a dead end last year after Iran rejected it, though the country’s leaders have since tried to keep the offer on the table, proposing variations without accepting the International Atomic Energy Agency’s terms.
According to diplomats familiar with the six-power negotiations, the Western-backed sanctions resolution would target Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls companies and organizations that have links to weapons proliferation.
It would extend the existing arms embargo to ban the import of light weapons, curtail new investments in Iran’s lucrative energy sector which diplomats said China opposes, authorize the seizure of suspect cargo at sea, and bar insurance to entities that are involved in proliferation activities to try to curtail their activities, the diplomats said last month.
The draft resolution would also strengthen financial measures that now call on all countries “to exercise vigilance” in entering into new trade commitments with Iran, the U.N. diplomat said.
But the draft resolution that will be circulated to the 10 non-permanent members is likely to be significantly softer since China and Russia are still hoping that diplomacy will lead Iran to the negotiating table and have indicated they will only agree to weaker measures if Tehran refuses.
With non-permanent council members Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon opposed to new sanctions, negotiations on a final resolution are likely to be long and difficult.
Rice said the six powers still support the “dual-track policy” of promoting diplomatic engagement and building pressure.
“Our priority is to have a strong Security Council resolution,” she said. “Thus far we have had very constructive and cooperative working relationships with China and Russia.”