Support grows for Iran sanctions

China, Russia give tentative OK to draft

December 12, 2006|By Maggie Farley | Maggie Farley,LOS ANGELES TIMES

UNITED NATIONS -- Russia and China voiced tentative support yesterday for a new draft resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, saying that with a few tweaks, it could be adopted by Christmas.

"It should not take too long," said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. "Now our problems with the draft are small ones."

The proposal, drafted by Britain, Germany and France, and backed by the United States, would impose penalties on Iran for defying the Security Council's order to stop enriching uranium by Aug. 31. It would impose a travel ban on and freeze the assets of Iranian officials and institutions connected with the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It also bans the import of specific bomb-related materials and technology into Iran.

China and Russia objected to the travel ban and asset freeze yesterday, and sought to clarify the criteria for lifting the sanctions. Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya called the sanctions on individuals "a humiliation."

But he said the differences could be bridged with "maybe a few small fixes."

Russia and China have held up action against Iran for months since the flouted August deadline, arguing that the council should work to bring Iran back to the negotiating table and not isolate it by imposing sanctions. Russia also has objected to measures that might affect the construction and fuel supply for an $800 million light water reactor it is building at Bushehr in southwest Iran.

The uranium enrichment process can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons, and Iran insists it is only pursuing nuclear technology for power generation. The United States and other countries believe the research will be used to make bombs.

At Russia's request, the new version of the resolution allows the Bushehr project to continue, and narrows the banned items to the most dangerous bomb-building technology and delivery systems, from a much broader list that included many dual-use goods. The Russian ambassador said that the changes meant that he would work toward adopting the resolution.

"The big change is that they essentially have accepted our concepts," Churkin said. "It is not supposed to be a punitive resolution. It is supposed to be a resolution to make sure that Iran does not step over the bounds in its nuclear program."

For the U.S. and Western European sponsors, unanimous agreement on the resolution sends the strongest message to Iran, and they note that as soon as Iran suspends enrichment, they will suspend the sanctions. But the message is clear that for now, patience with Iran has run out.

Maggie Farley writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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