U.N. vote on Iran sanctions postponed

Delay until November a concession to China, Russia and Germany

September 29, 2007|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States, Britain and France chose unity over speed yesterday, agreeing to delay until November a U.N. Security Council vote on a third sanctions resolution against Iran.

The delay, a concession to Russia, China and Germany - the other three countries in the fragile coalition of six world powers that are seeking to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions - followed a week of haggling. The six countries issued a statement advising Iran that a diplomatic offer of economic incentives remains on the table if Iran suspends its uranium-enrichment program.

The statement said the six powers would complete the new resolution and bring it to a vote unless reports from the European foreign-policy chief Javier Solana and the International Atomic Energy Agency in November "show a positive outcome of their efforts."

Bush administration officials, who have been pushing diplomats to expand sanctions against Iran, said the move to put off a decision until November reflected the realities of getting all six countries to speak with one voice.

Officials from Britain, France and the United States were pressing for another sanctions vote right away; China and Russia in particular wanted to wait for another report from the nuclear monitoring agency.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose often-volatile relationship with her Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, erupted again this week as Russia refused to support immediate sanctions, sought yesterday to minimize the differences between the countries.

"We've made it very clear that we've always wanted to keep the two tracks under way," she said in New York. "We will be watching to see what progress takes place."

U.S. officials routinely use the term "two tracks" to refer to sanctions and negotiations with Iran.

Rice's deputy, R. Nicholas Burns, the top U.S. negotiator on the Iran issue, acknowledged that "the alchemy of this group is such that anything is going to be a compromise."

He took issue with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech before the General Assembly this week in which the Iranian leader said the nuclear dispute with the West, which thinks Iran is working on a nuclear weapons program, is "closed."

"I'm sorry, he was badly mistaken," Burns said during a news conference. "Here, he has six ministers saying so."

Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

During a lunch attended by ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations Wednesday, Rice and Lavrov exchanged sharp words concerning the right time to push for more sanctions against Iran.

A European diplomat who was at the lunch said that "it's getting to the point that you can't get any work done if those two are in the room together," referring to Rice and Lavrov.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about tension between Rice and Lavrov.

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