UNITED NATIONS – Russia and the United States have agreed to seek a new U.N. resolution calling on Iran to comply with previous demands to suspend uranium enrichment but imposing no new sanctions, U.N. diplomats said Friday.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the brief resolution will affirm the three previous ones, which imposed progressively tougher sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its enrichment program and urged Tehran to comply.
The new resolution has the agreement of ministers from the six key players in negotiations on Iran's nuclear program — Russia, the U.S., Britain, France, China and Germany, Miliband said.
It will be introduced at a Security Council meeting Friday and could be put to a vote as early as Saturday if the 10 non-permanent council members agree, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
The United States, Britain and France have been pressing for a new round of sanctions to step up pressure against Iran for its continuing refusal to suspend uranium enrichment as a prelude to talks on its nuclear program. But Russia and China objected to new sanctions.
The proposed new resolution is a compromise — no new sanctions but a tough statement to Iran that Security Council resolutions are legally binding and must be carried out.
Russia on Tuesday scuttled high-level talks on imposing new sanctions on Iran that had been set for Thursday between the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Even sanctions opponent China had agreed to the meeting.
U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, sought to downplay the move, saying the time wasn't right for the session. But they had previously said such a gathering would be useful and necessary to get a fourth Security Council sanctions resolution on Iran.
"This is a resolution in the absence of the sanctions resolution," Churkin said. "No new sanctions have been discussed. No new sanctions have been agreed."
But Churkin said "there were some concerns" that the group of six countries was not functioning.
"So in order to dispel those concerns ... the ministers have decided to introduce this very brief draft resolution which would reconfirm the previous decisions of the Security Council," he said.
The draft resolution, he said, reflects "our unity of purpose as far as the problem of Iranian nuclear program is concerned."
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful and designed to produce nuclear energy, but the U.S. and Europeans suspect Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned Monday that he cannot determine whether Iran is hiding some nuclear activities, comments that appeared to reflect a high level of frustration with stonewalling of his investigators.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Tehran needs the ability to produce nuclear fuel because it cannot rely on other nations to supply enriched uranium to the Islamic regime's planned reactors.
Miliband said the new resolution would reaffirm the six countries' determination to continue pursuing their twin-track strategy — offering a package of benefits to Iran if it suspends enrichment and pursuing sanctions if it refuses.
"We look forward to that resolution being passed, and we also look forward to full engagement by the government of Iran with the very significant offer that is on the table to them," he said.
The new resolution, he said, will "affirm our unity ... rally international support, and ... show our determination to ensure that the international rules are upheld in this very important area," Miliband said.