- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

NEW YORK — A divided U.N. Security Council will tighten economic sanctions on Iran as early as tomorrow, diplomats say, to compel the Islamic republic to end its uranium enrichment efforts.

The resolution, still opposed by four nonpermanent members of the council, will be the third time the council has tried to curtail what European and American officials see as Tehran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

The council will likely delay a vote on a third round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, as Western countries lobby for a big vote in favor, diplomats were reported telling news agencies yesterday.

In a rare display of unity, the five veto-wielding members of the council agreed on the core language, which has been hammered out in consultations over the past few weeks.

“The last Security Council resolution was passed in March, and that resolution gave a 90-day deadline” for compliance, said Ric Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

The latest version of the draft resolution expands an existing asset freeze and travel ban on specific Iranian individuals, companies and government officials, but stops well short of isolating Iran’s Central Bank, or threatening military action.

The draft also calls for inspections of suspicious shipments into and out of Iran.

However, it makes no reference to additional measures under consideration by the five permanent council members — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — and Germany.

These include restrictions on sales of civilian aircraft parts and sales of technology that could be used in uranium enrichment.

Unlike two previous U.N. resolutions, which were approved unanimously by the 15-nation council, some members may vote against the third resolution.

Indonesia, South Africa, Libya and Vietnam, which are elected to two-year terms and cannot veto a resolution, have signaled their reluctance to accept further sanctions against Iran.

The Iranian government says it only seeks peaceful nuclear energy, but has subsequently admitted hiding military programs and defended its nuclear-capable missiles as being conventional weapons.

In its latest report, released last week, the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran has expanded its enrichment activities in defiance of the United Nations.

However, the agency also said Iran had cooperated with some elements of an IAEA inquiry.

The latest IAEA report “is their bill of health, and I do not view it as clean,” a Western diplomat said.

Diplomats are eager to get the resolution passed in a formal session no later than tomorrow, the last day of February, and the day Panama turns over the council presidency to Russia, which will preside for March.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told Russian reporters yesterday that his government supports the new resolution.

“If Iran in the next few days does not stop the enrichment activities of its heavy water project then, yes, Russia … has taken upon itself certain commitments … to support the resolution that has been drafted in the past month,” he said, according to Reuters news agency.

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