WASHINGTON, December 11, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reportedly welcomed a new UN draft resolution targeting Iran's nuclear program. Lavrov said the so-called 5+1 major powers' compromise is "based on Russia's proposals" and is intended "to push Iran to sit at the negotiating table."
But officials in Tehran have remained defiant, with local voices recently claiming that Iran is "the final winner" in the nuclear dispute.
There were reportedly still obstacles to a new draft when officials from the 5+1 Group -- China, France, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States, plus Germany -- met in Paris late on December 5 to discuss the sanctions issue.
By the end of last week, it had became clear that the effort to achieve consensus necessitated serious compromises. According to the "Financial Times," European diplomats on December 9 suggested a decision might be reached before Christmas.
Moscow appears to be the main obstacle to the adoption of a wide-ranging sanctions regime. Russia is building an $800 million nuclear facility at Bushehr, in southern Iran, and Iran is an important market for Russian armaments. Foreign Minister Lavrov, possibly fearing the adverse impact of sanctions on his country's Iranian business interests, said on December 5 that "broad sanctions" would not be "proportionate" and would "harm the situation," Radio Farda reported.
Washington -- which accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons -- has taken a more robust approach to the sanctions issue. U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns suggested amid the 5+1 talks that any UN resolution should "increase the [political and economic] cost to Iran" of what he called "illegitimate behavior," Radio Farda reported. He pushed for a move to "take away any possible technical...scientific...political, or financial support" for Iran's efforts from the private sector, including research institutions.
But a compromise at the December 5 was reportedly being blocked by Russian foot-dragging. An anonymous European diplomat told Reuters at the time that "the gap between Russian and U.S. positions [was] still huge."
The French government appeared to be pushing for the imposition of sanctions, Reuters reported on December 6. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy expressed frustration at the task of "propos[ing] sanctions that all the international community agrees on but, at the same time, they have to be proportionate and reversible." The reference to "proportionate" and "reversible" echoes the language of Moscow's demand of any resolution.
Douste-Blazy added that the objective is to tell Iran to "come back to its senses, come back to the international community," and to offer the possibility of developing its civilian nuclear program. He warned that a compromise is all the more urgent with "the credibility of the United Nations Security Council...at stake."
By December 9, reports had emerged that a compromise draft resolution was being distributed among ambassadors from the 5+1 that would be introduced formally on December 11.
The document's new wording reportedly focuses on activities directly connected with making nuclear weapons. As an apparent sop to Russia, restrictions relating to the Bushehr nuclear facility were said to have been removed.
Not surprisingly, the Iranian government is advising against the imposition of sanctions, and senior officials are maintaining a defiant stance.
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad led the way, cautioning that his country would regard efforts to halt Iranian nuclear progress or curb "the Iranian nation's rights, either in propaganda or international bodies," as "an act of hostility," Radio Farda reported on December 5.
Speaking to an audience of young people on December 9, Ahmadinejad dismissed the international effort as having "backed down from military sanctions to empty sanctions," IRNA reported. He described the situation as one of "great successes" for Iran and added that the country is "only one step away from [its] nuclear climax," IRNA reported.
His foreign minister, Manuchehr Mottaki, said there is no legal basis for referring Iran's case to the UN Security Council and reiterated Iran's nuclear determination, Fars News Agency reported from Manama on December 8.
Conservative Iranian newspapers adopted a similar tone. The front page of the "Kayhan" daily on December 7 proclaimed that "5+1=0," and described the international impasse as "the seventh collapse of the Group of Six." It said the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, have failed to achieve consensus on Iran's "peaceful" nuclear program.
A conservative columnist, Ali Yusefpur, boasted in the pro-government "Siyasat-i Ruz" daily on December 9 that Iran is "the final winner in the nuclear energy field." He went on to assert that Iranian officials have successfully countered American plots.
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