updated 7/20/2006 9:59:44 PM ET 2006-07-21T01:59:44

Key European nations circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday that would put the threat of sanctions, but not force, behind demands that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and clear up suspicions about its nuclear program.

If Iran does not comply, the draft states, the council will follow up under Article 41 of Chapter 7 in the U.N. Charter, which allows punishments that do not involve military action, such as economic sanctions, banning air travel or breaking diplomatic relations.

The draft, sent to the entire 15-nation council, is the follow-up to a July 12 promise by the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S. to send Iran back to the council for not responding to an offer of incentives to suspend enrichment.

The draft, proposed by Britain, France, Germany and backed by the U.S., would make mandatory earlier demands from the council and the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran stop uranium enrichment.

Enriched uranium can be used to produce both nuclear power and weapons, but Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful.

The United States had hoped to have the Security Council pass the resolution by the end of this week, but that seemed unlikely because diplomats were occupied with the Lebanon crisis.

In addition, there was no indication that a split with Russia had been bridged.

Russia had circulated a counterproposal Wednesday that stripped much of the tough language from the draft. Western powers presented their version to the full council anyway.

Security Council to meet Friday
Diplomats from the five permanent members of the council and Germany met Thursday morning, and planned to convene again on Friday.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton didn’t rule out a deal by the end of the week, though he acknowledged the chances were slim.

“It’s now Thursday, I’m not sure how we’re going to do this by Friday, but creative minds might yet find a way through,” he said.

In its current form, the West’s draft says only that Iran must comply with the demands by August. It does not take into account a Thursday statement from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council saying Tehran would reply Aug. 22 to the Western incentive package.

That statement was Iran’s first mention of a precise date after weeks of being accused of stalling. It also warned that Iran would retaliate if the world tried to punish it.

“In case the path of confrontation is chosen instead of the path of dialogue ... and Iran’s definite rights are threatened, then there will be no option for Iran but to reconsider its nuclear policies,” the Iranian statement said.

Russia in no rush
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, indicated on Wednesday that Moscow was in no rush to get a resolution passed but said Russia wanted an answer sometime soon to the package of incentives, put forward on June 5.

Russia has helped Iran build its nuclear program, selling it equipment and expertise for an $800 million power plant by the Persian Gulf.

Churkin stressed the council is not trying to push Tehran to suspend enrichment.

“We are not in a rush at all,” Churkin said. “We do not want to ambush Iran in any way. We’re very much in a negotiating political mode. We do not want to dictate things to Iran.”

“Nobody’s pushing Iran anywhere,” he said.

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