Britain and France delayed a Security Council vote on new sanctions against Iran until Monday to try to get more support for the resolution.
The two countries are co-sponsoring the resolution that would impose a third round of sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment and are seeking the same unanimous vote that they got for the first two sanctions resolutions — or close to it.
Four non-permanent council members have raised a variety of concerns — Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam. Council diplomats involved in the negotiations said Friday that progress was being made, though it was still uncertain whether any of them would vote "yes."
The vote, which had been expected on Saturday, has now been put off until Monday morning and the resolution will be circulated in its final form late Friday, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations are still taking place.
"We think the wider the base of support, the clearer the political signal" sent to Iran, Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said Thursday.
Vietnam proposed several amendments to the draft resolution on Thursday, and council diplomats said French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was visiting South Africa, spoke to President Thabo Mbeki and was also in contact with the Libyans.
Resolution raises questions
Libya's U.N. Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi told reporters on Monday that he would vote against the current draft, and Indonesia's U.N. Ambassador Marty Natalegawa reiterated his country's serious concerns on Thursday, saying the resolution "raised more questions than answers."
The resolution imposes new sanctions against Iran for continuing to defy Security Council demands that it suspend nuclear enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity and for nuclear weapons.
Iran insists its enrichment activities are intended only for peaceful civilian purposes, but the United States, the European Union and others suspect its real aim is to produce atomic weapons.
All four countries that raised questions wanted to wait for a report on Iran's past nuclear activities from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. That report, released last Friday, said suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest — a point stressed by the Libyan and Indonesian envoys.
But the report also said that Iran rejected new documents that link Tehran to missile and explosives experiments and other work connected to a possible nuclear weapons program.
Iran: Report false, misleading
Iran called the information false and irrelevant, and Iran's U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazee accused an Iranian opposition group listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union of feeding fabricated evidence to Washington.
The IAEA confirmed that Iran has continued to enrich uranium and demanded that Tehran suspend its uranium centrifuge program.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters Thursday that Moscow supports Iran's right to develop peaceful nuclear energy under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and recently provided nuclear fuel for the nuclear power plant it helped Iran build at the southern port of Bushehr.
"In our mind this provides a great opportunity for Iran to heed the request of the international community for suspension of uranium enrichment because any conceivable needs for the foreseeable future for fuel for the existing nuclear power plant have been satisfied," Churkin said.
"Unfortunately, this is not the case so this is the stumbling block which makes it inevitable that the Security Council is currently considering this resolution," he said.
Third round of sanctions
The draft resolution would expand travel restrictions and the freezing of assets to more Iranian officials linked to the nuclear effort, and impose a travel ban on some of those most involved in proliferation activity.
For the first time, it would ban trade with Iran in goods that have both civilian and military uses. It would introduce financial monitoring on two banks with suspected links to proliferation activities, and call on all countries "to exercise vigilance" in granting export credits, guarantees or insurance. It would also authorize inspections of shipments to and from Iran that are suspected of carrying prohibited goods.
Russia's Churkin, who takes over the council presidency on Saturday, said that "for the first time it does have some positive words about Iran's cooperation with the IAEA."
The resolution will also be accompanied by a statement from the foreign ministers of the five permanent council nations and Germany — who have offered Iran a package of incentives for suspending enrichment. It will strongly emphasize "the continued efforts of the six towards a diplomatic and political solution of this matter," Churkin said.