China expressed concern Monday that a proposed U.N. resolution to curb Iran's nuclear program could lead to a new war and it urged Britain and France to eliminate any reference to possible future sanctions or military action against Tehran.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya remained adamant in his opposition to putting the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which sets out actions to respond to threats to international peace and security ranging from breaking diplomatic relations to arms embargoes, economic sanctions and the use of force.
Britain and France, who are sponsoring the resolution which is strongly backed by the United States, insist the resolution must be under Chapter 7 to make legally binding its demand that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment.
But Wang disagreed, saying China takes the view that all Security Council resolutions are legally binding and there is no need for a reference to Chapter 7 "because Chapter 7 is about enforcement measures."
"I believe it is time since the Iranians have not cooperated, have not complied, have not responded positively — so I think a Security Council resolution is needed," he said. "But I think that the resolution has to be (an) appropriate resolution."
Did Wang believe that a Chapter 7 resolution could lead the Security Council further down a path that led to the Iraq war?
"Yes, this is a concern," the Chinese ambassador replied.
Wang spoke to reporters before a meeting of ambassadors from the five veto-wielding permanent nations on the Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.
Afterward, ambassadors said they had scrapped efforts to agree to a resolution before their foreign ministers meet over dinner in New York on Monday evening to discuss the Iran nuclear issue.
Wang and the other ambassadors said the ministerial meeting will focus on longer-range strategic thinking about how to deal with Iran, but with the resolution still in limbo there is almost certain to be some discussion of its most contentious issues.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said after an informal council meeting Saturday that the United States isn't prepared "to extend these negotiations endlessly" and wants a vote this week, with or without Chinese and Russian support.
"We are still working to achieve unanimity ... but we're prepared to go to a vote without it," he said.
Wang said China hopes "that the co-sponsors can redraft their resolution and come up with a draft that could have the support of the whole council."
"I hope that in the next two or three days we can come up with the language with the intention of the resolution that could unify the whole council," he said.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, declared in 2002 that Iran had been conducting secret nuclear activities for decades, though it has never said Tehran has a weapons program.
Iran claims it has the right to enrich uranium for a peaceful civilian nuclear program to produce electricity under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and refused to comply with a council demand in late March to suspend enrichment.
The U.S., Britain and France, who believe Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, claim Tehran ceded the right to enrich uranium by hiding parts of its nuclear program from the international community.