PARIS – France's foreign minister said Wednesday that Iran will face U.N. sanctions for refusing to halt its nuclear program, but major world powers remain divided over exactly how far punishment should go.
Philippe Douste-Blazy said on RTL radio that the measures would fall under a part of the U.N. Charter — Article 41 of Chapter 7 — that authorizes the Security Council to impose nonmilitary sanctions, such as severing or limiting diplomatic and economic relations, transportation and communications links.
"The question is about the scope of sanctions, but there will be sanctions," Douste-Blazy said.
At closed-door talks in Paris Tuesday, France and five other major powers, including the U.S., failed to reach an accord on a U.N. resolution to punish Iran, although the French Foreign Ministry said there was "substantive progress" and that "we are now close to a conclusion of this process."
The Security Council has been at odds over how to deal with Iran's defiance of an Aug. 31 U.N. deadline to halt uranium enrichment. Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that U.N. sanctions will not force his country to abandon its nuclear program, which he insisted is for peaceful purposes. Western powers accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons.
"Nuclear technology is a right for all the countries," Manouchehr Mottaki told AP Television News on a visit to The Hague, Netherlands. "We are against any limitation to realize this right for the countries ... for peaceful purposes.
The Europeans and Americans want tough sanctions; Russia and China have pushed for dialogue, despite the failure of an EU effort to bring the Iranians to the negotiating table.
A top European diplomat said Wednesday that the five permanent Security Council members — the U.S., China, France, Russia and Britain — along with Germany remained split on key questions of visa bans and asset freezes for Iranians linked to nuclear development.
Douste-Blazy, however, played down the differences, saying the talks confirmed major powers' desire to act in concert.
"We agreed on one thing: There will be a resolution at the U.N. Security Council in a unified manner, including China and Russia," he said.
After months of diplomatic wrangling, the U.S. and France had hoped the talks would produce a resolution to impose sanctions on Iran for defying U.N. demands to stop uranium enrichment. The process can produce material for atomic warheads as well as electricity.
Russia made some concessions in its resistance to wide-ranging sanctions — agreeing to a measure prohibiting financial transfers to "problematic" Iranians linked to nuclear or ballistic programs, a European diplomat said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Russia still opposes the broader asset freeze that the European players proposed in a draft U.N. resolution presented in October, the diplomat said.
And the question of travel bans for those involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs remains "blocked," the diplomat said. The Europeans and Americans support the bans; Russia opposes them.
The working-draft of the U.N. resolution would order all countries to ban the supply of materials and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Russia has said it supports such measures.
The Russians also remain resistant to a measure expanding the powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor Iran's nuclear program, considering that a "provocation" to Iran, the diplomat said.
The draft resolution — which the U.S. and the Europeans want adopted by the end of the year — would exempt a nuclear power plant being built by the Russians in Iran, but not the nuclear fuel needed for the reactor. Russia wants to remove any mention of the Bushehr reactor.