UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council will approve new sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment — but the timing is uncertain and the resolution may not get unanimous support.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said last week a vote would be scheduled on Friday. But council diplomats said Wednesday it was likely to be delayed until next week to try to get the support of four non-permanent members who have expressed concern about the resolution — Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam.
The five veto-wielding permanent council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — have already agreed on the draft resolution, which would expand travel restrictions and the freezing of assets to more Iranian officials linked to the nuclear effort and impose a travel ban on some of those most involved in proliferation activity.
The five global powers and Germany offered Iran a package of economic incentives and political rewards in June 2006 if it agreed to freeze uranium enrichment before talks on its nuclear program. But Iran has refused, despite two previous sets of U.N. sanctions.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency on Wednesday as saying: "Russia will support new Security Council resolution regarding Iran if Tehran does not halt uranium enrichment in coming days."
The resolution needs nine "yes" votes for adoption, and council diplomats say Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Panama, Burkina Faso and Costa Rica will support it, so it will pass easily.
But diplomats said the permanent members would like the resolution to get unanimous approval, just as the previous sanctions resolution against Iran did, so closed-door talks have been taking place with the four reluctant members. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks have been private.
Libya's U.N. Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi told reporters on Monday that he would vote against the current draft.
For the first time, it would ban trade with Iran in goods which have both civilian and military uses. It would introduce financial monitoring on two banks and call on all countries "to exercise vigilance" in granting export credits, guarantees or insurance. And it would authorize inspections of shipments to and from Iran that are suspected of carrying prohibited goods.
Although uranium enrichment can be used to make material for nuclear warheads, Iran maintains its program is produce electricity. But the U.S., the European Union and others suspect its real aim is to produce weapons.
The four reluctant council members wanted to delay a vote until after last Friday's release of a report by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency which said suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest.
But the report also said that Iran rejected documents that link it to missile and explosives experiments and other work connected to a possible nuclear weapons program. Tehran called the information false and irrelevant.
The report confirmed that Iran has continued to enrich uranium in defiance of repeated council resolutions and demanded that Tehran suspend its uranium centrifuge program.