updated 7/28/2006 4:38:21 PM ET 2006-07-28T20:38:21

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council reached a deal Friday on a resolution that would give Iran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

The latest draft is weaker than an initial proposal from Britain, France and Germany, with U.S. backing. While the earlier version would have made the sanctions threat immediate if Iran did not comply, the latest draft would essentially give Iran another chance later on to come around.

That was a victory for Russia and China, which argue that the resolution is not an ultimatum but a new request for Iran to accept a deal that would give it various incentives if it suspends uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

“There (are) no sanctions introduced on Iran in the draft resolution which we are finalizing,” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

Churkin stressed that work on the resolution was not finished, raising the possibility the introduction of the draft could be postponed.

Not waiting for Iran’s response
The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany with U.S. backing, is a follow-up to a July 12 agreement — by the foreign ministers of those four countries, plus Russia and China — to refer Tehran to the Security Council for not responding to the incentives to suspend enrichment.

The ministers asked that council members adopt a resolution making Iran’s suspension of enrichment activities mandatory. Tehran said last week it would reply Aug. 22 to the Western incentive package, but the council decided to go ahead with a resolution and not wait for Iran’s response.

The draft was formally circulated to the full 15-member council later Friday and could be adopted next week.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton portrayed the draft as a much tougher statement than Churkin did, stressing the eventual threat of sanctions if Iran does not comply.

“The next step will be the consideration of sanctions in the Security Council and it would be our intention to move forcefully to get those sanctions adopted,” Bolton told the council. Iran on Friday called again for international negotiations on its nuclear ambitions and said it was considering the incentives.

‘Positive step’
Western nations have dismissed the idea of such talks without a halt to Iran’s uranium enrichment.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking to reporters in Malaysia, said Tehran considers the package as a “positive step” toward a diplomatic solution.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Tehran maintains its nuclear program is purely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

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