The United States on Tuesday presented to the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution containing a fourth round of tough new sanctions aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear activities. The draft is the product of weeks of negotiation among the five permanent veto-wielding members of the council plus Germany. And comes just a day after Iran agreed to a deal brokered by council members Brazil and Turkey to export some of its enriched uranium in return for fuel for a medical research reactor.
The new draft resolution contains strong sanctions, including restrictions on Iran's import of conventional arms, limits on Iranian ballistic missile activity, and the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes on designated members of the powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The resolution would also establish a comprehensive new framework for cargo inspections in seaports and on the high seas, requiring states to search any vessels they reasonably believe to be carrying prohibited cargo and to seize and dispose of it.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the goal of the resolution is two-fold.
"First, to increase the cost to Iran's leadership for its continuing defiance of the international community," said Susan Rice. "And second, to persuade Iran that it is in its interest to peacefully resolve concerns about its nuclear program. The draft seeks to support and not replace our efforts to engage Iran diplomatically. We've said through-out this process that the door remains open to Iran to live up to its obligations and achieve a better relationship with the international community."
The United States has been in the lead on pressing for new sanctions. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier Tuesday that the Brazilian-Turkish fuel swap deal Tehran agreed to this week leaves "a number of unanswered questions", but that strong sanctions will send the Iranian leadership an "unmistakable message" about what is expected of it.
Iran insists its nuclear program is strictly peaceful, but world powers believe Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.
The new draft resolution is significant in that it contains strong new measures and won the support of China and Russia -- two powers which have been reluctant to impose new sanctions.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the draft is acceptable to Moscow because it is not intended to hurt either normal economic activity in Iran or the civilian population.
"We believe it is an adequate language; it is a language acceptable to us; a language we can live with, because it is focused adequately on non-proliferation matters," said Vitaly Churkin.
Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong reiterated his government's commitment to the dual track approach of engagement and pressure regarding Iran and welcomed the announcement of agreement on the fuel swap deal.
"So we think this is a positive step [the fuel swap deal] on the right track towards the right direction," said Li Baodong. "And I think all the parties should grab this opportunity to step up the diplomatic efforts to address this issue."
But French Ambassador Gérard Araud made the point that the fuel swap is intended as only a confidence-building measure and is not an end in itself. He said Iran still remains in violation of earlier Security Council resolutions, has not stopped enriching uranium and has not answered outstanding questions to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Diplomats said they hope for a vote among the full council as soon as possible, but it was not clear how long that could take.
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