The U.N. Security Council could vote by tomorrow on whether to approve additional sanctions over Iran's contested nuclear program, Reuters reported (see GSN, June 8).
Diplomats from the council's 15 member states met yesterday at the request of Turkey and Brazil, which recently signed a uranium exchange deal with Iran and have opposed imposing further penalties against the Middle Eastern states.
Ambassadors from the council nations are scheduled to meet behind closed doors today ahead of a possible vote tomorrow, Western diplomats said.
"We'll have consultations [Tuesday], another round," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. She indicated with a nod of her head that a vote was likely to occur this week.
The resolution would be the fourth aimed at curbing Tehran's atomic activities and would result from roughly five months of talks, according to Reuters.
It would punish Iranian banks for any links to their nation's nuclear or missile operations and broaden the U.N. weapons embargo imposed on Iran, among other measures. It would prohibit any Iranian "activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons" and forbid Tehran to financially support uranium mining or other nuclear-related operations.
A list of people and organizations that could be hit with asset freezes and other penalties was apparently note finished.
Stronger penalties, some of which would have hit Iran's energy sector, died in the face of opposition from China and Russia.
Twelve Security Council states are expected to support the resolution, including veto wielders China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Opposition is expected from Brazil, Lebanon and Turkey (Louis Charbonneau, Reuters I/Ynetnews, June 8).
Iran has used various means, including giving new names to cargo ships and establishing shell companies as owners of the vessels, to skirt existing sanctions, the New York Times reported.
"We are dealing with people who are as smart as we are, and of course they can read our" blacklist, said U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey (Jo Becker, New York Times I, June 7).
The resolution in itself is not likely to bring Iran's atomic activities to a halt, but could pave the way for further unilateral sanctions against Tehran by the United States and other nations, the Times reported yesterday.
Washington in the last few months has been providing briefings to top officials from Security Council states regarding intelligence that indicates Iran has resumed nuclear-weapon design work, according to the newspaper.
Sources from the United States and other nations said the sessions, provided to heads of state and top diplomats, demonstrate that Washington is retreating from the finding of a 2007 intelligence assessment that Iran had halted nuclear-weapon work beyond fuel production. That estimate proved controversial and has since been reconsidered in light of new information, according to the Times.
“These were pretty nuanced presentations,” according to one non-U.S. diplomat. “It was full of qualifiers -- it wasn’t like Colin Powell doing a PowerPoint" in the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
U.S. officials “made the point that the Iranians are doing both dual-use research and some things that you can explain only by an interest in nuclear weapons," a high-level Obama administration official said. Tehran's program, though, “is limited, carefully circumscribed, and will not, on its own, get them to a bomb. It is by no means the sort of comprehensive effort we saw before 2003," the source added.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed yesterday that his nation would not be bowed by the penalties but would rescind its acceptance of the uranium deal signed with Brazil and Turkey.
The agreement calls for Iran to store 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium in Turkey for one year; other countries would be expected within that period to provide nuclear material refined for use at a Tehran medical research reactor in exchange for the Iran-origin uranium. The arrangement appeared similar to another proposal, formulated in October by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that was intended to defer the Middle Eastern state's ability to fuel a nuclear weapon long enough to more fully address U.S. and European concerns about its potential nuclear bomb-making capability. Tehran ultimately rejected the IAEA proposal.
“If the U.S. and its allies think they could hold the stick of sanctions and then sit and negotiate with us, they are seriously mistaken,” he said.
“The Tehran declaration provided an opportunity for the United States government and its allies. We had hoped and we are still hopeful that they use the opportunity well,” Ahmadinejad added. “I must say opportunities like this will not be repeated again" (David Sanger, New York Times II, June 7).
Ahmadinejad was scheduled to meet today at a conference in Istanbul with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the New York Times reported. Putin has expressed doubt that Iran's nuclear program has a military component.
“I hold the opinion that this resolution should not be unnecessary, should not put Iran’s leadership or the Iranian people into difficulty,” he said (Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times III, June 8).
Ahead of the meeting, Ahmadinejad cautioned Moscow today against backing the U.N. sanctions resolution, Reuters reported.
"There is no big problem, but they must be careful not to be on the side of the enemies of the Iranian people," he said (Karadeniz/Bryanski, Reuters II, June 8).
Meanwhile, a video televised yesterday in Iran featured a man claimed to be a nuclear scientist missing since last year, the Associated Press reported.
Shahram Amiri, 32, went missing in June 2009 while on his way to Saudi Arabia. News reports in the United States stated he had defected and was supporting CIA operations against Tehran's nuclear work, while the Iranian government said Amiri was kidnapped.
The man in the video, who looks like Amiri, said he was tranquilized by Saudi intelligence personnel on June 3 of last year.
"When I became conscious, I found myself in a plane on the way to the U.S.," according to the man. "Since I was abducted and brought to the U.S., I was heavily tortured and pressured by U.S. intelligence," he said, claiming to be in Tuscon, Ariz.
The video was said to have been obtained by Iranian intelligence, but the means of acquisition were not known (Associated Press/Google News, June 7).
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said today the government "won't allow this to happen to our nationals and through legal channels we will pursue the issue," Agence France-Presse reported (Agence France-Presse/Straits Times, June 8).
One Western official said that some details used by U.S. officials in making their case for sanctions to Security Council members have come from Amiri, the Times reported. "He was one of the sources of the new information, but not the only one," he source said (Sanger, New York Times II).