- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council demanded yesterday that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, the first time the powerful body has directly urged Tehran to clear up suspicions that it is seeking nuclear weapons.

The 15-nation council unanimously approved a statement that will ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to report back in 30 days on Iran’s compliance with demands to stop enriching uranium.

Diplomats portrayed the statement, which is not legally binding, as a first, modest step toward compelling Iran to make clear that its program is for peaceful purposes. The Security Council eventually could impose economic sanctions, though Russia and China say they oppose such tough measures.

The document was adopted by consensus and without a vote after a flurry of negotiations among the five veto-wielding council members. In the end, Britain, France and the United States made several concessions to China and Russia, Iran’s allies, who wanted as mild a statement as possible.

Still, the Western countries said the statement expresses the international community’s shared conviction that Iran must comply with the governing board of the IAEA and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Enrichment is a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a nuclear warhead.

“The council is expressing its clear concern and is saying to Iran that it should comply with the wishes of the governing board,” said France’s U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere.

Members of the council wanted to reach a deal before today, when foreign ministers from the five veto-wielding council members and Germany meet in Berlin to discuss strategy on Iran.

Diplomats would not say exactly what will happen if Iran does not comply with the statement within 30 days, but suggested that would be discussed by the foreign ministers in Berlin.

U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said earlier yesterday that the statement “sends an unmistakable message to Iran that its efforts to deny the obvious fact of what it’s doing are not going to be sufficient.”

The council has struggled for three weeks to come up with a written rebuke that would urge Iran to comply with several demands from the board of the IAEA to clear up suspicions about its intentions. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The West thinks council action will help isolate Iran and put new pressure on it to clear up suspicions about its intentions. It has proposed an incremental approach, refusing to rule out sanctions.

U.S. officials have said the threat of military action also must remain on the table.

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