Britain, France upbeat on Iran agreement|
Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:46 PM ET
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States and its allies on Friday
predicted adoption of a U.N. Security Council statement on Iran's nuclear
ambitions next week, although China and Russia still had misgivings.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters after a closed meeting of
the 15-nation council that a Franco-British draft statement "is certainly
very close to agreement."
Both Russia and China have been apprehensive that council involvement
would take the issue away from the Vienna-based International Atomic
Energy Agency. They also fear that Security Council action would escalate
and lead to possible sanctions or other punitive measures.
One sticking point was a demand for a report from the head of the
Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency within 14 days. But Bolton
and the British and French ambassadors said the council could be flexible
and extend the reporting time. China had proposed four to six weeks.
"We have signaled that there is flexibility, on the assumption we adopt
this text soon," French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said. "But the
longer it takes, then the shorter the time will be."
Another problem was whether the report from the IAEA should go to the
council or the nuclear watchdog's 35-member governing board first. British
Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said both would receive it simultaneously,
although the statement only mentions the Security Council.
"The council should not be fettered in its consideration of that report
by any consideration elsewhere," he said. "But that report should also be
available to the agency and to its governing board. So it is
"We are now very close to the end of the discussions," de la Sabliere
said. He hoped for adoption on Tuesday but that Russia and China still
needed instructions from their respective governments.
China's U.N. ambassador Wang Guangya said Russia and China still had
differences with the draft that expresses "serious concern" about Iran's
nuclear program and asks the IAEA to report on whether Tehran had complied
with its demands. It does not threaten sanctions.
But Bolton said, "I think they can clearly see that the rest of the
council, with some possible additional modifications, basically, in broad
substance, is ready to go".
The draft statement also calls on Iran to suspend uranium-enrichment
efforts, which the West believes are a cover for bomb-making. Iran insists
its research is intended to produce nuclear energy, but the IAEA is
concerned Tehran might be seeking atomic weapons.
China's Wang told the meeting the draft statement should be shorter and
not spell out each demand, even its main points duplicated those from the
IAEA governing board, participants at the session reported.
To reporters, Wang said, "We need to send a message ... that the
Security Council is supporting, reinforcing the role of the IAEA, not
replace it or take it over from IAEA."
But Bolton said, "The urgency of sending a clear and strong signal to
Iran is certainly very much on our mind, conscious as we are that the
Iranian centrifuges are spinning with uranium hexafluoride in them. That
is a very serious matter."
He was also asked about comments from Russia's U.N. Ambassador Andrei
Denisov that the pace of council action was too fast. "If I were as near
to Iran as Russia is I would certainly want to get this resolved quickly,"
The 15 council members meet again on Tuesday, a day after senior
foreign ministry officials, including U.S. Undersecretary of State
Nicholas Burns, come to meet in New York to discuss future strategy. The
other officials are from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.