UNITED NATIONS – A proposed new package of sanctions against Iran for enriching uranium appeared headed to the U.N. Security Council after ambassadors for six world powers resolved remaining differences.
The six-nation show of unity would be unlikely to meet strong opposition from the other 10 members on the council, which must approve the measures. A vote was expected in the days to come.
"We have an agreement in principle based on some additional changes that were introduced and presented today by some delegations," acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said Wednesday.
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He said the new elements still needed to be approved by government officials in the five countries that hold permanent council seats — the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain.
But he and other envoys expressed confidence the package would be presented to the council on Thursday with support from those governments and the sixth nation involved in the negotiations, Germany.
"Our hope is now that we've overcome a particular hurdle ... and the council will have the text before it by tomorrow morning," said Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry.
Iran insists its enrichment program is peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy, but the U.S., European nations and the U.N. nuclear watchdog are concerned that Iran's goal is to produce nuclear weapons.
The modest package includes an embargo on Iranian arms exports and an asset freeze on more individuals and companies associated with Tehran's nuclear and missile programs, council diplomats said.
The United States and the Europeans would certainly favor tougher sanctions, but knew they had to settle for less to ensure that Russia and China, which have close commercial ties with Iran, will not use their veto power to block a resolution.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said while there was agreement on the proposals "by and large," some of the council members still want to consult with their governments on the details.
"I assume as they double-check, they will get a positive response from the capitals, and they expect that this is going to be the case, too," he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday warned the West that it would deepen the rift with his country by imposing more U.N. sanctions.
"You are wrong if you think you can sit and draft ... something in order to isolate the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to several thousand people in the Iranian city of Yazd.
"Not only are you unable to hurt Iran, but you would further isolate yourselves and make yourselves more hated," he added.
In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
The council said it would consider further nonmilitary sanctions if Iran refused to suspend enrichment. Iran's response was to accelerate its enrichment program.
The new resolution also would call on all U.N. member states to exercise "vigilance and restraint" on arms imports and on the entry or transit through their territory of Iranians subject to the asset freeze, a council diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the text has not been circulated.
It would call on governments to make no new commitments "of grants, financial assistance, or concessional loans to the government of Iran," the diplomat said.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said he wasn't happy with the list of additional individuals and entities that would be subject to sanctions, but he added: "I think one has to reach agreement, so there has to be a package."
Earlier Wednesday, Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss Iran's nuclear program.
Afterward, Livni urged the Security Council to strengthen its sanctions on Iran. She said Iran's government, which speaks publicly of wiping Israel off the map and denies the Holocaust, is a threat not only by Israel but to Iran's Arab Muslim neighbors.
She said it is "clear that their goal is to pursue a nuclear weapon. Time is of the essence because while we are talking, they are working ... to master the technology and to achieve this goal. So we have to stop it."