UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council passed a weakened resolution Monday giving Iran until Aug. 31 to suspend uranium enrichment or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
Iran immediately rejected the council action, saying it would only make negotiations more difficult concerning a package of incentives offered in June for it to suspend enrichment.
"All along it has been the persistence of some to draw arbitrary red lines and deadlines that has closed the door to any compromise," said Iran's U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif. "This tendency has single-handedly blocked success and in most cases killed proposals in their infancy.
"This approach will not lead to any productive outcome and in fact it can only exacerbate the situation."
Because of Russian and Chinese demands, the text was watered down from earlier drafts, which would have made the threat of sanctions immediate. The draft now essentially requires the council to hold more discussions before it considers sanctions.
The draft passed by a vote of 14-1. Qatar, which represents Arab states on the council, cast the lone dissenting vote.
"I want to thank our allies on this very important resolution," President George W. Bush said, adding that it was a reminder to Americans that the United States has a strategy in place to "send a common message, a unified message to the Iranian leadership."
Drafted by Britain, France and Germany with U.S. backing, the resolution follows a July 12 agreement — by the foreign ministers of those four countries, plus Russia and China — to refer Tehran to the Security Council for not responding to the incentives package.
The ministers asked that council members adopt a resolution making Iran's suspension of enrichment activities mandatory. The resolution includes that demand and calls on all states "to exercise vigilance" in preventing the transfer of all goods that could be used for Iran's enrichment and ballistic missile programs.
"If you remember the reason for that resolution is to make the suspension of enrichment and related activities mandatory and then to give Iran a deadline by which it should accept the now mandatory requirement that it suspend its enrichment activities," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters on a flight from Jerusalem.
After the resolution was adopted, Zarif told the council it had no legal legitimacy to demand Iran suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing. He repeated Iran's claim that it has every right to pursue nuclear technology and does not want to develop nuclear weapons.
Tehran said last week it would reply to the Western incentive package on Aug. 22, but the council decided to go ahead with a resolution and not wait for Iran's response.
On Friday, Iran again called for international negotiations on its nuclear ambitions and said it was considering the incentives. Western nations have dismissed the idea of such talks without a halt to Iran's uranium enrichment.
The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its nuclear program is purely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.
The resolution would call on the U.N nuclear agency, the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency, to report back by Aug. 31 on Iran's compliance with the resolution's demands.
If Iran does not comply, the council would move to adopt political and economic sanctions, the resolution said.
Diplomats said the threats spelled out in the resolution would be revoked if Iran agrees to the package of incentives.
"It does not mean an end to the negotiations and we reaffirm the proposals," France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said. "We appeal to Iran to positively respond to the substantive proposals that we made last month."
Explaining his "no" vote, Qatar's U.N. Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser said that while the demands of the six nations were legitimate, the resolution will only exacerbate tensions in the region and Iran should be given more time to respond.
"We do not agree with the tabling of this resolution at a time when our region is in flames," Al-Nasser said. "We see no harm in waiting for a few days to exhaust all possible means and in order to identify the real intentions of Iran."