UNITED NATIONS – Britain and France introduced a U.N. Security Council resolution Wednesday that would be legally binding and set the stage for sanctions against Iran if it does not abandon uranium enrichment.
Diplomats said they hoped the resolution, backed by the United States but opposed by China and Russia, will be adopted before a meeting of foreign ministers in New York next Monday.
The resolution mandates that Iran "shall suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activities," according to the text presented to the council.
But Iran nuclear chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh said Wednesday his nation had enriched uranium to the upper end of the range needed to make fuel for reactors, further defying U.N. demands. Iran announced April 11 it had enriched uranium for the first time.
The resolution also calls on Iran to stop construction of a heavy-water reactor. It will seek a report back from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Iran's compliance.
"Once again, the key to this lies in Iran's hands," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said. "If they give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons, a lot of things are possible. If they continue to bluster and to threaten and obfuscate and try to throw sand in our eyes, then we're onto a different circumstance."
No timeframe has been set for that report but France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he wants that report no later than early June.
Iran says its nuclear program is confined to generating power, but the United States and France accuse the country of secretly trying to build nuclear weapons.
The resolution was written under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes any demands mandatory and allows for the use of sanctions — and possibly force — if they are not obeyed. Any sanctions would require another resolution.
That could set up a showdown with Russia and China, which are adamantly opposed to such a tough resolution and can veto any resolution because they are permanent members of the council.
Asked if a Chapter 7 resolution was acceptable, China's Ambassador Wang Guangya shook his head and answered "No, no, no."
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.
The resolution was drafted by Britain, France and Germany, the three European Union nations that have led negotiations with Iran. Ambassadors said discussions between the three EU nations, the United States, China and Russia were only beginning over the resolution.
"On the strategic objective, there's nothing between the six of us. We do not want to see an Iran with a nuclear weapon capability," Britain's Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said. "On the detail of the resolution, there have been exchanges of views and those will continue."
Last month, the Security Council issued a nonbinding statement that Iran comply with previous demands to abandon enrichment. That statement asked for a report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei in 30 days on Iran's compliance.
As had been widely expected, ElBaradei issued a report Friday saying Iran had not complied, laying the groundwork for Wednesday's resolution.
Western nations say the statement and the resolution are part of a gradual process of increasing pressure on Iran.