The U.S. diplomat leading six-nation talks on Iran's nuclear program predicted Tuesday that European governments would prepare a resolution for the U.N. Security Council that could allow for sanctions, and he insisted that diplomatic efforts were not dead.
"I think what we will see unfold is that European governments will put forward following today's discussion some form of Chapter 7 resolution, and we'll discuss the form of it," U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in Paris before the talks.
A resolution under the U.N. Charter's Chapter 7 makes any demands mandatory and allows for the use of sanctions and possibly force.
On Wednesday, Britain, France and Germany are expected to introduce the text of a new resolution on Iran activities before the U.N. Security Council. U.S. officials want it to be under Chapter 7 and are keen for sanctions.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said a Chapter 7 resolution was "one of the possibilities" for dealing with Iran.
The six nations are meeting to discuss a report to the Security Council by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Iran's uranium enrichment activities. The report opened the way for the council to take punitive measures against Iran, but immediate action is not likely because Russia and China are opposed to sanctions.
A senior Russian lawmaker with close ties to the Kremlin said Moscow will reject a Security Council resolution on Iran proposed by the United States and its European allies because Russia will not agree to impose sanctions at this stage.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the lower house of parliament's foreign affairs committee, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he expected agreement on a milder resolution on May 9 at a meeting of foreign ministers in New York.
This could give Iran a deadline of 1-3 months to meet demands to stop uranium enrichment. If that deadline expired without result, Kosachev said, a new Security Council resolution would be required to impose sanctions on Iran.
While Burns spoke of sanctions and assailed Iran for continuing to enrich uranium despite international pressure, he added: "We believe there can be a diplomatic solution to the problem. We have not given up hope on diplomacy. We are focusing on diplomacy."
The foreign ministers of the Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany will meet May 9 at U.N. headquarters in New York. The council will meet on Iran formally after those talks to discuss the new text.
Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed only at producing electricity, but the United States and other countries fear Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
Israel's military chief said in comments published Tuesday that the world has the might to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz also said that if Iran does obtain nuclear capability, it will constitute a threat to Israel's existence. When asked if the world can, militarily, stop Iran's nuclear program, Halutz told the Maariv newspaper: "The answer is yes."
Asked whether Israel would be involved in such a military operation against its top enemy, Halutz said, "We are part of the world."
Western nations have been considering tough sanctions — not yet including military action — against Iran if it continues with its program to enrich uranium.
President Bush has refused to rule out military action in response to the Iranian nuclear standoff. When asked last month whether U.S. options regarding Iran "include the possibility of a nuclear strike" if Tehran refuses to halt uranium enrichment, Bush replied, "All options are on the table." He stressed, however, the United States will continue to focus on diplomacy.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, Iran's U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif called Bush's refusal to rule out a U.S. nuclear strike on Iran "illegal and insolent threats."
Zarif said the use of "false pretexts" by senior U.S. officials "to make public and illegal threats of resort to force against the Islamic Republic of Iran is continuing unabated in total contempt of international law and fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter."
The "U.S. aggressive policy" of contemplating the possible use of nuclear weapons also violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and other U.S. multilateral agreements, he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly spoken out against Israel and threatened to wipe it "off the map."