TEHRAN, Iran – Russia proposed major amendments Friday to a European draft resolution on Iran, saying it wants sanctions limited to measures that will keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in order to leave the door open for negotiations.
China said it had a similar view and supported the proposed Russian changes which would weaken the European text. The United States, however, contends that the European draft is not tough enough and U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said he would be distributing proposed U.S. changes later Friday.
The rival views of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council set the stage for long and difficult negotiations on a resolution to punish Iran for continuing uranium enrichment in defiance of a council demand to suspend its controversial nuclear program and return to the negotiating table.
Bolton said the five permanent members -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France -- would be sending the Russian proposals to their capitals for study, and their ambassadors would likely meet again here next week.
The British, French and German draft orders all countries to ban the supply of material and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs and impose a travel ban and asset freeze on companies, individuals and organizations involved in those programs.
It would exempt the initial nuclear power plant being built by the Russians at Bushehr, Iran, but not the nuclear fuel needed for the reactor. It would also limit assistance to Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to food, agriculture, medical and humanitarian programs. And it would ban countries from teaching or training Iranians in disciplines that would contribute to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters after a meeting of the five permanent Security Council members that the Russian amendments shortened the European text.
"We think that the resolution that we are discussing now should ... preclude situations where people and countries could be helping Iranians in developing uranium enrichment, in developing means of delivering nuclear weapons," Churkin said.
"But at the same time -- and it is very important -- another element of our philosophy ... that it should leave the doors open for our talks with the Iranians, and should not contain things which have no useful purpose but simply will lead people away from the goal of a negotiated outcome of this complicated Iranian nuclear program issue," he said.
Bolton said "the changes were extensive" and included "a complete line-in, line-out version of edits" of the European draft.
While Churkin refused to distribute the proposed Russian changes, he indicated that it dropped all references to the Bushehr plant, which he said "has nothing to do with the resolution we are discussing" and is consistent with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday Moscow was open to international "measures" against Iran for its nuclear program, but that the European draft went too far.
"Measures which we would introduce would have to be reasonable, take account of the real situation, should be proportional to the actual situation with regards to the nuclear program in Iran and should also be in stages," Lavrov told a news conference at European Union headquarters Brussels.
Both Russia and China have continued to publicly push for dialogue instead of U.N. punishment, despite the collapse last month of a European Union attempt to entice Iran into talks.
The five permanent council members and Germany offered Iran a package of economic incentives and political rewards in June if it agreed to consider a long-term moratorium on enrichment and commit to a freeze on uranium enrichment before talks on its nuclear program.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly and defiantly said his country would continue enrichment, and is not intimidated by the possibility of sanctions
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters who asked whether the Russians and Chinese were in the same boat, "I would say we have similar views. I support them."
The European draft is "a bit too tough," he said. "It might corner the Iranians. But I believe that China always argues that first of all this case of the Iranians is different from North Korea, so you cannot just apply the same standards."
North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, he said, while Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy. And unlike North Korea, Iran is a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Wang said China also believes that sanctions should be imposed in stages and that sanctions should be imposed in a way that puts "some political pressure on the Iranians to come back to negotiations."