The Obama administration is preparing to circulate proposed tough new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as early as this week at the United Nations, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The proposed measures, which would target elements the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps under fresh penalties as well financial institutions under existing U.N. sanctions resolutions, are being finalized and prepared for debate in the U.N. Security Council, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions on the outline of the sanctions are still ongoing between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., Britain, China, Russia and France — as well as Germany and other countries.
The officials would not predict when a vote might take place, but said negotiations on a proposed fourth round of U.S. Security Council sanctions could begin within weeks.
The Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran over suspicions it is hiding nuclear activities and fears that it could retool its enrichment program from making low-grade material to produce nuclear power into producing weapons-grade uranium for nuclear warheads.
Persuading Russia, China
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discussed Iran sanctions Wednesday in London with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and was due to have a similar conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Thursday.
Clinton is meeting an array of foreign ministers this week in London, where she and her colleagues are attending international conferences on Afghanistan and Yemen, and in Paris on Friday, where she will deliver a speech on European security.
Accompanying her are senior State Department and Treasury Department officials involved in recruiting support for the new measures.
With Russia, and in particular China, skeptical of any new sanctions efforts, the Americans have to tread carefully to maintain six-power unity on how to deal with Iran.
Taking over the Security Council presidency earlier this month, China said it opposes new sanctions against Iran. Like the U.S., Russia, Britain and France, China, which relies on Iran for much of its energy needs, is a veto-wielding member of the council.
'Can't wait indefinitely'
Clinton said she thinks Russia, China and others are coming around to the view that it is time for the Iranian government to face consequences for failing to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.
Russian news services reported after the talks that Lavrov showed some support for sanctions on Iran.
"Clearly, we can't wait indefinitely, and our partners are talking about the need to discuss additional steps in the U.N.," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
Clinton said she was pleased with the responses she was getting, telling reporters that there was a growing belief in the "international community that Iran should face consequences for its defiance of international obligations."
Clinton declined to talk about the timeline for the presenting the outline.
"I am not going to preview or pre-empt what we're doing."