WASHINGTON – The United States suggested Friday that a deal is impose United Nations sanction on Iran is near despite a disappointing round of talks among key world powers earlier this week.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also indicated the United States does not have unlimited patience for what has already been drawn-out negotiations among the U.N. Security Council's permanent members and Germany over Tehran's rogue nuclear program.
"The sense is that any differences ... over the text of the resolution are starting to narrow," McCormack said. "We remain hopeful that, in the near future we will be able to get a resolution that everybody can vote for — that we will be able to maintain unity on the Security Council."
The Americans and Europeans are pushing for a resolution by the end of the year.
Iran was on the agenda for a meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian national security adviser Igor Ivanov, whose nation has resisted strong sanctions for months. Rice was discussing strategy on Iran later Friday with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Germany, France and Britain led failed talks with Iran last year that European powers had hoped would avert U.N. sanctions. Europe joined the United States in seeking sanctions early this year, but the process has bogged down repeatedly over objections from Russia and China. Both nations are permanent, veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council that have trade and other ties to Iran.
McCormack described a sanctions resolution with broad support as "the optimal solution."
"We would certainly want that in the best case, but it is also time to start working towards a vote," McCormack said.
On Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy predicted that Iran will face U.N. sanctions for refusing to halt its nuclear program but that major world powers remain divided over their extent.
"The question is about the scope of sanctions but there will be sanctions," he said on RTL radio.
His ministry said Tuesday that closed-door talks in Paris had made "substantive progress" but failed to reach an accord on a resolution to punish Iran for defying demands that it cease enriching uranium.
Iran's hard-line president threatened to downgrade relations with the 25-nation European Union if tough sanctions emerged from the talks among diplomats from the permanent Security Council members — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — as well as Germany and the EU.
After months of diplomatic wrangling, the United States and France had hoped Tuesday's talks would produce a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for defying an Aug. 31 U.N. deadline to halt enrichment. Western powers accuse Iran of seeking nuclear bombs, while Tehran insists it only wants civilian nuclear energy.
European diplomats said Russia made some concessions at Tuesday's talks, agreeing to a measure prohibiting financial transfers to some Iranians linked to nuclear or ballistic missile programs.
Russia still opposes the broader asset freeze that Britain, France and Germany proposed in a draft U.N. resolution presented in October.