updated 3/10/2006 8:42:27 PM ET 2006-03-11T01:42:27

The five veto-holding members of the Security Council considered proposals on Friday to pressure Iran to resolve questions about its nuclear program, including demands that it abandon uranium enrichment and stop construction on a reactor, diplomats said.

But Russia indicated it was uncomfortable with the Security Council taking any significant action at all, fearful that Iran could spurn negotiations entirely at a time when the West fears the Islamic state is determined to have nuclear weapons.

Britain, France and the United States are seeking a tough statement aimed at pressuring Iran, while Russia wants the council to remain in the background. China is believed to side with Russia.

The proposals were preliminary and almost certain to change in the final text that the full 15-nation council was expected to consider next week. The five permanent council members met again on the proposals Friday afternoon at the U.S. mission to the U.N. As he left, China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said the diplomats did not discuss sanctions.

Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes only, but the United States claims that it has been working to build a bomb for more than a decade. Britain and France are also skeptical of the Iranians, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, says it has serious questions about Iran’s program.

No legal requirement to obey statements
While Iran has no legal obligation to obey a presidential statement from the council, the United States and its allies believe that even mild Security Council action could help further isolate Iran and pressure it to abandon enrichment. They believe it could also help strengthen the voice of the IAEA, whose demands Iran has ignored.

On Wednesday, Britain and France circulated a list of proposals for the statement. A diplomat who had seen the list told The Associated Press that they included a demand that Iran halt construction on its heavy-water reactor and that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, which can be used to make nuclear arms. A diplomat in Vienna said the draft proposal asked IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei to report to the council within 14 days.

Another proposal said that council action is necessary “to reinforce the authority of the IAEA” and persuade Iran to fulfill its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The document circulated to the permanent five also called for quick council action and said ElBaradei should report to the council “in a short timeframe” on Iran’s progress toward answering the questions about its program, the diplomat said.

Threats not mentioned
According to the diplomat based at U.N. headquarters in New York, the early ideas did not include any threats against Iran. All the diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the permanent five had agreed to keep the proposals secret.

“It’s more about noting with concern and expressing serious concern, calling for transparency, reminding all states, not just Iran, of their obligations,” the diplomat said. “There’s no threat of anything and there’s certainly no threat of measures or next steps.”

A lack of any threats is a clear effort to get Russia and China on board, but it is not clear they would even go that far. Russia, for example, has made clear it opposes the council taking any substantive action, because it fears that Iran could then make good on veiled threats to expel IAEA inspectors entirely.

“The Security Council should not take upon itself the leading role in determining the presence or absence of real — and not imaginary — risks of violations of the nuclear nonproliferation regime,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

In an interview with state television broadcast Thursday, Lavrov proposed more talks outside the council on Iran’s nuclear program. He said the talks should include Moscow, the United States, China, France, Germany, Britain and the IAEA.

Seeking outside support?
Ambassador John Bolton and other senior American officials have suggested that if the Security Council does not take tough action, Washington might look elsewhere to punish Iran — possibly by rallying its allies to impose targeted sanctions.

Bolton would not comment directly on Lavrov’s proposal but suggested he approved.

Earlier in the day, Bolton said sanctions were not yet on the table in the council, and that the United States wanted to start with “peaceful and diplomatic measures.” Diplomats have indicated they will focus initially on a demands that Iran comply with the IAEA. The agency triggered council action by sending a Feb. 27 report on Iran’s activities to the council.

“Then we’ll think of other options, because as the president said, all options are on the table, as they must be to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Bolton said.

One of Iran’s senior clerics warned the Security Council to be careful before making any further decisions on Iran’s nuclear program.

“Our nation insists on its rights and will never back down. Talking to this nation with a threatening tone is unwise and stupid,” cleric Ahmed Khatami said during Friday prayers in Tehran.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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