The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have reached a deal on a resolution that would give Iran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.
The draft was formally circulated to the full 15-member council and is expected to be adopted some time next week.
The latest draft is weaker than an initial proposal from Britain, France and Germany, with US backing.
While the earlier version would have made the sanctions threat immediate if Iran did not comply, the latest draft would essentially give Iran another chance later on to come around.
That was a victory for Russia and China, which argue that the resolution is not an ultimatum but a new request for Iran to accept a deal that would give it various incentives if it suspended uranium enrichment and reprocessing.
“There (are) no sanctions introduced on Iran in the draft resolution which we are finalising,” Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.
Churkin stressed that work on the resolution was not finished, raising the possibility the introduction of the draft could be postponed.
The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, is a follow-up to a July 12 agreement – by the foreign ministers of these four countries, plus Russia and China – to refer Tehran to the security council for not responding to the incentives to suspend enrichment.
US ambassador John Bolton portrayed the draft as a much tougher statement than Churkin did, stressing the eventual threat of sanctions if Iran does not comply.
“The next step will be the consideration of sanctions in the security council and it would be our intention to move forcefully to get those sanctions adopted,” Bolton told the council.
Yesterday Iran called again for international negotiations on its nuclear ambitions and said it was considering the incentives.
Western nations have dismissed the idea of such talks without a halt to Iran’s uranium enrichment.
Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking to reporters in Malaysia, said Tehran considered the package as a “positive step” towards a diplomatic solution.
The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to produce highly-enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its nuclear programme is purely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.