Video: ‘Major test’ for Security Council

msnbc.com
updated 9/1/2006 6:50:32 PM ET 2006-09-01T22:50:32

Iran’s refusal to stop enriching uranium poses a “major test” of the U.N. Security Council’s capacity to handle international crises, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Friday, challenging the council to carry through on its threat of sanctions or risk losing its credibility.

Tehran ignored a U.N.-imposed deadline of Thursday to halt enrichment of uranium, but “whether the council will actually produce a resolution with sanctions remains to be seen,” Ambassador John Bolton said in an interview on MSNBC-TV’s “Hardball.”

Failing to do so, he warned, would “[tell] us a lot about the utility of the council and the global struggle against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

The dispute edged nearer to a showdown Thursday when the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, Austria, confirmed that Tehran had not halted uranium enrichment as demanded by the Security Council and said three years of IAEA probing had been unable to confirm “the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program” because of lack of cooperation from Tehran.

Meetings set for next week
The five members of the Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — are to be joined by Germany in a meeting Wednesday in Berlin to review their options, a day after the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, meets with Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator.

Bolton declined to specify what sanctions the United States might seek, but European and other U.S. diplomats have said they are focusing on low-level punishment at first to win backing from Russia and China, both of which are eager to protect economic interests in Iran and could veto any sanctions.

Bolton challenged Russia to stand with the Security Council, accusing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of contradicting himself Friday by calling sanctions “counterproductive” even though Russia supported imposing the U.N. deadline in July.

Video: U.S. won’t rule out force

“I have a feeling that when we get down to cases and actually put a resolution on the table, we’ll find out more specifically,” Bolton said.

“But this really is a test for the Security Council,” he added. “If we can’t deal in the council with a proliferation threat like Iran, then I think that tells us a lot about the utility of the council in the global struggle against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

No timetable for sanctions
Bolton refused to predict a timetable for U.N. action. U.S. and other officials said this week that no action would be sought at Solana’s meeting with Larijani on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, President Bush called for “consequences to Iran’s defiance,” saying the “world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran.”

Iran’s hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has insisted that Tehran would not be “bullied” into giving up the right to use nuclear technology. Other Iranian officials said the country could withstand any punishment.

Bolton refused to flatly rule out the use of military force to compel Iran’s compliance, saying on “Hardball” that “any president charged with responsibility for protecting the American people is not going to take the military option off the table when you confront a threat as grave as an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.”

But he reiterated: “Our preferred way of dealing with this problem is through peaceful and diplomatic means, and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past several years.”

MSNBC.com’s Alex Johnson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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