How to punish Iran?

The debate over how to punish Iran for its refusal to suspend sensitive nuclear fuel work resumes in New York on Monday with Western diplomats confident that the United Nations Security Council will approve targeted sanctions against Tehran by Christmas.

Ambassadors of the Security Council’s five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany, are to meet informally on Monday morning to consider a revised sanctions draft resolution, which was circulated on Friday to the full 15-member Council, diplomats said.

Following inconclusive talks among senior officials of the six powers in Paris last Tuesday, the sponsors slightly amended the draft to try to make it more palatable to Russia and China. The two countries have opposed previous proposals as too tough and unlikely to persuade Tehran to comply with UN demands that it halt all uranium enrichment activities.

The latest European text would mandate a ban on trade with Iran on goods related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and impose financial and travel restrictions on persons and entities involved.

Specifically targeted are ”all items, materials, goods and equipment which could contribute to Iran’s enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water related activities, or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems”.

Russia and China — which have close economic and energy ties with Iran — have been trying to water down the European draft, while the United States has sought to harden it.

Despite Russian objections, the new text includes a list of a dozen Iranian officials directly involved in their country’s nuclear and ballistic programmes who would be targeted for UN sanctions.

At Moscow’s insistence, it however drops all references to Iran’s first nuclear power station, a $1-billion facility which Russia is helping to build in Bushehr.

Bushehr had been mentioned by name in previous drafts but had been exempted from sanctions although there was some ambiguity about delivery of nuclear fuel to the plant.

The draft does not include a US demand for an explicit characterisation of the Iranian nuclear programme as ”a threat to international peace and security”.

It states that Iran ”shall without further delay suspend proliferation sensitive nuclear activities, in particular all enrichment-related reprocessing activities, including research and development, and work on all heavy water related projects, including the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water”.

The draft asks the head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to submit a report within 60 days on whether Iran has fully complied with the demands.

It says implementation of the sanctions would be suspended if Iran halts uranium enrichment but warns that failure to heed the UN demands would lead to ”further appropriate measures”, a reference to economic sanctions.

Monday’s informal talks at ambassador level come less than a week after political directors of foreign ministries of the six nations failed in Paris to agree on the scope of the proposed sanctions.

But in Washington, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said on Friday that the six had now narrowed their differences over the terms of the draft.

”The sense is the differences are narrowing,” he told reporters after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the issue here on Friday with Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov.

But a diplomat close to the negotiations here said tough bargaining lies ahead, notably to win over the Russians who are keen on maintaining a dialogue with the Islamic Republic.

US and European officials however said they were hopeful that an acceptable text would be agreed by Christmas.

”The goal is still unanimity [on a text] but not at any price,” a Western diplomat said.

Meanwhile Iran, which ignored an August 31 deadline to freeze uranium enrichment, has said it will not give up its nuclear programme even if faced with UN sanctions.

Uranium enrichment is used to make nuclear fuel as well as the core of an atom bomb. Iran insists it only wants to enrich uranium to generate electricity. – AFP

 

AFP

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Gerard Aziakou
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