- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 24, 2007

NEW YORK — Members of the U.N. Security Council reached broad agreement late yesterday on a draft resolution imposing additional sanctions on Iran for its nuclear endeavors, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad canceled plans to address the council before a vote today.

A vote is scheduled at 3 p.m. barring any last-minute changes when the latest text is sent to governments of the 15 council members for final approval.

Diplomats said last night they expect the resolution will pass unanimously after last-minute adjustments to secure the backing of South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar.

These countries, especially South Africa, which holds the council presidency for the month of March, have fought hard for amendments to the draft, including an explicit recognition of Iran’s right to develop a peaceful nuclear-power program.

Qatar and Indonesia also sought a commitment to strive for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, a move aimed at Israel.

On charges that the United States thwarted Mr. Ahmadinejad’s planned visit, State Department spokesmen in Washington and Bern, Switzerland, said the U.S. Embassy there had issued three dozen visas and was working to complete last-minute requests.

“The applications were incomplete but they were completed this morning,” Daniel Wendell, press attache to the embassy, told Reuters news agency. “The two batches amount to about 75 visas. That’s a pretty sizable group.”

The resolution demands that Iran immediately suspend its uranium-enrichment program and satisfy concerns of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, in exchange for explicit assurances that it has the right to develop nuclear energy.

If Tehran refuses, the council will impose limited sanctions on government officials and the country’s arms industry and take “other appropriate measures.”

The draft, more than three weeks in the works, is significantly softer than Washington initially intended. The new language, circulated late Thursday evening, stresses the importance of diplomacy and negotiation even as it holds out the possibility of “further appropriate measures” if Tehran fails to comply with requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

It also requires states to report the international travel of named Iranian government and military officials as well as those involved with the nuclear effort; restricts the import and export of conventional arms; limits loans and financial assistance to the government.

An annex, added last night, proposes “a fresh start” in negotiations and includes fuel guarantees to Iran.

To pass, a resolution requires nine positive votes, and no veto from any of the five permanent members.

The veto would not seem to be an issue on the Iran resolution, as the permanent five members who hold the veto right are all co-sponsors of the draft that is the basis for discussion.

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