Reuters: Germany and China urged rapid approval of a U.N. draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program after South Africa surprised major powers by proposing a softening of the document’s wording. By Noah Barkin
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany and China urged rapid approval of a U.N. draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program after South Africa surprised major powers by proposing a softening of the document’s wording.
The proposed resolution, designed to pressure Iran to halt its uranium enrichment work, would put in place an embargo on Iranian arms exports and freeze financial assets abroad of 28 individuals, groups and companies.
It is a follow-up to a previous resolution adopted by the Security Council in December and was expected to be voted on this week after Germany and permanent council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States agreed on the text.
But South Africa, the current chair of the Security Council, has called for all key sanctions proposed by major powers, including an arms embargo and financial bans on an Iranian state bank and the Revolutionary Guard, to be dropped.
Although the original draft could probably be adopted by the Security Council without South Africa’s backing, the major powers had wanted it to be passed unanimously.
The German government said Chancellor Angela Merkel had spoken with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday and that both supported quick approval of the new resolution.
“There was agreement, in view of Iran’s insufficient cooperation, on the need for quick approval of the U.N. Security Council’s draft resolution that is currently under discussion and for the pursuit of a political solution based on a united international stance,” Germany said of the conversation.
IRAN SAYS NO RUSSIAN ULTIMATUM
Separately on Tuesday, Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Hosseini Tash denied a report in the New York Times which said Russia had told Tehran it would withhold fuel for its Bushehr nuclear power plant unless it suspend uranium enrichment.
The newspaper, citing European, American and Iranian officials, had reported that Igor Ivanov, secretary of the Russian National Security Council, had delivered the ultimatum to Tash last week.
“No, I deny this news and the situation was completely the other way around,” Tash told state radio on Tuesday. “Mr. Ivanov was trying to convince us that these issues are not related, meaning the Bushehr issue is not related to the nuclear issue.”
Diplomats at the U.N. Security Council now say they do not expect a vote on the draft resolution on Iran until next week. Adoption requires a minimum of nine votes on the 15-member council and no veto.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to address the council on the day of the vote and is expected to argue that his country’s nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes. Western powers suspect Tehran wants to build an atomic bomb.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was due in South Africa for talks with President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday, officials said.
The South African proposal, obtained by Reuters on Monday, calls for all sanctions to be suspended for 90 days so more political negotiations can be held with Tehran.
South Africa, which abandoned its own nuclear arms program before the end of apartheid in 1994, has repeatedly said it does not believe there is evidence to suggest Iran is pursuing a nuclear bomb.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Johannesburg