- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

NEW YORK — The United States and European Union yesterday pushed for a U.N. Security Council vote as early as today on Iran sanctions, a diluted version that drops a U.S.-backed travel ban on Iranian nuclear officials in a bid to win Russian support.

The governments of Germany, France and Britain drafted the latest text, which calls for a ban on trading parts or technology for use in making ballistic missiles or nuclear fuel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to ignore the resolution, which comes just days after Pentagon officials disclosed plans to beef up the contingent of warships in the region by early next year.

“The United States and Europeans know well that they cannot do anything against Iran and their pressure will not hold back Iran’s desire to fully obtain peaceful nuclear technology,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said yesterday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated that Washington would support the draft.

“Had we been the lone drafters of the resolution, of course there might have been other things in it,” she told reporters yesterday after a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay.

“But I am quite satisfied and quite certain that the resolution that will be adopted will be one that both says to Iran ‘you cannot defy the international community’ and imposes penalties on Iran for that defiance,” Miss Rice said.

Russia said last night that the resolution needed more work, casting doubt on whether the vote could be held today.

The West fears Tehran is developing fissile material for a nuclear weapon, but Iran insists it seeks nuclear power.

The latest council text cites Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which authorizes the body to undertake economic, political and military action to address threats to international peace and security.

However, the draft stresses the need for a political and diplomatic effort to contain proliferation.

It also calls on the U.N. nuclear agency to report within 60 days whether Iran is complying with its requests for information and access to all enrichment-related activities.

The draft demands that all states to deny Iran technical assistance, training, financial assistance or investment that could be used to advance suspect nuclear activities.

In addition, the resolution would immediately freeze the assets of two dozen individuals and companies listed as crucial to Iran’s nuclear or ballistic enterprises.

Iran’s oil minister admitted earlier this week that de-facto financial restrictions already in place are making it difficult for the Islamic state to raise needed investment funds for its oil and gas industry.

“Currently, overseas banks and financiers have decreased their cooperation,” Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh told Shana, the Oil Ministry’s news service, according to a report in the Financial Times yesterday.

Some analysts were skeptical that the Security Council could effectively rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“They should get off the U.N. track and go back to the U.S.-EU track, which can take action much more quickly and resolutely than the Security Council can,” said Lee Feinstein, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The U.N. track has been a diversion and sends the wrong message.”

Meanwhile, political candidates aligned with Mr. Ahmadinejad appear to have lost last week’s local elections, according to results announced early yesterday in Tehran.

Moderates and reformers won most seats from the hard-line ruling party, according to press reports.

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