Major powers negotiating sanctions against Iran say they want the 15-nation Security Council to vote on their draft resolution by the end of the week despite indications it may not have the panel's full support.
South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo expressed disappointment that his country's proposals were dismissed and said the council's 10 non-permanent members were not given enough time to review the resolution.
South Africa wanted extensive amendments to the resolution drawn up last week by the council's five permanent members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — with help from Germany. But with the exception of some minor changes, the six nations decided Thursday to stick to their original version.
With the five veto-wielding powers firmly behind it, the resolution is virtually certain to obtain the nine votes needed for approval. But the big powers want a unanimous vote to give the sanctions more weight.
"We know we can get a majority, we hope we can get consensus," said acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff. "It is important, but that's essentially more of a symbolic objective."
The sanctions are the latest attempt by the international community to pressure Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for electricity-generating nuclear reactors as well as for atomic bombs.
The resolution has been put into final form, meaning it can be submitted for a Security Council vote after 24 hours, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said. He said the vote will likely be Saturday, though Wolff said Friday evening was a possibility.
"The text that we have submitted is one which we believe finds the center of gravity of the debate," Jones Parry told reporters after the closed-door Security Council meeting. "It's an appropriate, proportional, incremental response to the situation."
In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions on Iran, ordering 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.
Iran responded by announcing an expansion of its enrichment program, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains defiant, insisting the program is peaceful and aimed solely at producing electricity.
Ahmadinejad has asked to speak to the Security Council just before it votes on the new draft resolution.
The new sanctions would ban Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.
The big powers rejected South Africa's call for a 90-day "time-out" on all sanctions against Iran and elimination of an embargo on arms exports and financial sanctions targeting the Revolutionary Guards and an Iranian bank.
Jones Parry said the "time-out" proposal was rejected "for the very simple reason that it would have been to reward noncompliance of Iran's obligations and that would be totally perverse."
They also left out a proposal by Indonesia and Qatar calling for the Middle East to be free of weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.
Wolff, the U.S. envoy, said that proposed amendment "diverts from the focus of this resolution, which, again, is to bring Iran back into compliance with its obligations."
In an interview with France-2 TV, Ahmadinejad said Thursday he would make new proposals to resolve the dispute, although he again rejected demands to suspend enrichment.
The revised text made clear that Iran still had the option of accepting the package of economic incentives and political rewards the six powers offered the country last June if it abandoned uranium enrichment.