UN council takes steps toward Iran sanctions

Posted in Iran , UN | 12-Oct-06 | Source: International Herald Tribune

The United Nations (UN) Security Council.

VIENNA The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council agreed Wednesday to start working on UN sanctions against Iran next week but failed to bridge differences on how harsh the penalties should be, diplomats and officials said.

They said that while the United States was calling for broad sanctions to punish Iran's nuclear defiance, Russian and Chinese representatives at a top-level Vienna meeting favored less- severe measures.

The diplomats and government officials demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing the confidential meeting of the five Security Council countries and Germany - the six powers whose repeated attempts to entice Iran to enter nuclear negotiations finally broke down last week over Tehran's refusal to give up uranium enrichment.

Reflecting the importance of the meeting, Russia, Britain, France and Germany sent top negotiators directly answerable to their foreign ministers, while the United States and China were represented by their chief representatives to the International Atomic Energy Agency. A U.S. under secretary of state, R. Nicholas Burns, participated via video hookup.

One of the diplomats, who had been briefed on the substance of the meeting, said that while Burns had urged broad sanctions, like a total ban on missile and nuclear technology sales, the Russians and Chinese backed prohibitions of selected items as a first step.

He also said the Chinese and Russian envoys had called for renewed negotiations with the Iranians in parallel to working on sanctions to punish Tehran for defying a Security Council demand that it freeze enrichment, a possible pathway to nuclear arms.

Burns "acknowledged the request" but did not say whether the Americans favored a renewed attempt to engage Iran in negotiations following repeated failures to coax it into agreeing to stop its enrichment activities, he said.

The differences reflected continued divisions over how harshly to penalize Iran for ignoring a Security Council deadline to stop all enrichment activities by the end of August. Russia and China have recently swung behind the Americans and Europeans in agreeing to the need for sanctions but have publicly opposed attempts to make them too severe.