World powers are considering dropping U.N. Security Council discussion of Iran’s nuclear program if Tehran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment, but could push for sanctions backed by the threat of force if the Islamic state refuses, diplomats said Saturday.
Later Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister rejected that possible approach to resolving its standoff with the international community, saying that Tehran would not give up uranium enrichment.
Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking in Kuwait, told journalists that Iran supports halting talks in the council, but “suspending nuclear activities goes against our legitimate rights and is not part of the NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty).”
The draft proposal on Iran is being considered by the five Security Council nations plus Germany and could still undergo revision before the six powers sit down Wednesday to approve it, said one of the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal elements of the draft.
As it stands now, the proposal says the international community will “agree to suspend discussion of Iran’s file at the Security Council,” if Tehran resumes talks on its nuclear program, suspends enrichment during such talks and lifts a ban on intrusive inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
It also offers help in “the building of new light-water reactors in Iran,” offers an assured supply of nuclear fuel for up to five years, and asks Tehran to accept a plan that would move its enrichment program to Russia.
Sanctions if Iran refuses
If Iran does not cooperate, the draft calls for banning travel visas; freezing assets; banning financial transactions of key government figures and those involved in Iran’s nuclear program; an arms embargo, and other measures including an embargo on shipping refined oil products to Iran. While Iran is a major exporter of crude it has a shortage of gasoline and other oil derivatives.
“Where appropriate, these measures would be adopted under Chapter VII, Article 41 of the U.N. Charter,” says the draft, referring to provisions that add the implicit threat of military force to a Security Council resolution.
That language — backed by the United States, France and Britain — remains controversial, and the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency plans to urge the Bush administration next week to ease its push for tough Security Council action.
Diplomats said that Mohamed ElBaradei would meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and other top U.S. officials.
Several of the diplomats — all of them accredited to the Vienna-based agency — told The Associated Press that ElBaradei’s Washington meetings would be Tuesday, a day before the six nations convene in London to discuss the draft proposal.
U.N. members split
The Americans have swung behind new attempts by France, Britain and Germany to persuade the Iranians to give up enrichment — which can be used to generate nuclear fuel or for making weapons. But the U.S. insists that the Iran package include the threat of a Security Council resolution that is militarily enforceable if Tehran refuses.
Russia and China — the two other permanent Security Council members — oppose any resolution that even implicitly threatens force.
One of the diplomats said Friday that Washington remained opposed to proposals by some European nations that the Iranians be offered U.S.-backed security guarantees effectively removing the threat of American-backed attempts at regime change, the diplomat said.
Concern has built since 2002, when Iran was found to be working on large-scale plans to enrich uranium. Iran insists it is only interested in generating electricity, but the international community increasingly fears ulterior motives.
A series of IAEA reports since have revealed worrying clandestine activities and documents, including drawings of how to mold weapons-grade uranium metal into the shape of a warhead.
Iran heightened international concerns by announcing April 11 that it had enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges. It has informed the IAEA that it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges in the last quarter of 2006.
Experts estimate that Iran could produce enough nuclear material for one bomb if it had at 1,000 centrifuges working for over a year.