US predicts "strong majority" for Iran nuclear sanctions
The United States said it expects a "strong majority" of UN Security Council members on Wednesday to support a new set of sanctions against Iran's advanced uranium enrichment activities, dpa reported.
US Ambassador Susan Rice said the 15-nation Security Council will hold an open meeting as scheduled on Wednesday. She revealed, however, that closed-door meetings on Tuesday resulted in "no new grounds broken," apparently because of resistance by some council members.
"It is a strong, broad-based resolution that will impose meaningful and significant new sanctions on Iran," Rice told reporters.
She said the resolution to be adopted will bear the number 1929, showing her resolute confidence in the sanctions' passage.
"Our aim remains to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear programme and negotiate constructively and honestly with the international community," she said. "We remain committed to the dual approach."
She said the sanctions will not only be supported by a "strong majority" but it will also be "strong, comprehensive and effective resolution."
The draft resolution Rice submitted already has the support of Russia, China, France and Britain, which with the US are the Security Council's permanent members with veto power. Their support is essential for the adoption of the new sanctions.
The sanctions are opposed by at least three of the 10 elected, rotating members: Lebanon, Turkey and Brazil.
Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, current Security Council president, called the meeting for 10 am (1400 GMT) Wednesday, but left it open as to whether the council would go directly into a vote on the sanctions or allow speeches before taking the vote.
Lebanon, whose population include Shiite Muslims and supporters of Iran-backed Hezbollah militants, said it would abstain in the vote on Wednesday. Turkey and Brazil, which worked out a nuclear fuel swap deal for Iran in May, have come out against the sanctions. Lebanon, Brazil and Turkey hold two-year seats on the council.
The United States, Russia, China, France and Britain had agreed on the sanctions before the new draft was presented to the Security Council for discussion.
The scheduled vote on Iran sanctions had stirred sharp comments Tuesday in some world capitals.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in Istanbul that the new sanctions would lead to a suspension of any diplomatic talks on the nuclear issue.
"I have said that the US government and its allies are so mistaken - that if they think they can brandish the stick of (a sanctions) resolution and then sit down to talk with us, such a thing will not happen," he said.
Ahmadinejad called any new sanctions a "big mistake" and suggested the world community reconsider its rejection of the nuclear fuel swap deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil.
In London, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said a combination of diplomacy and pressure could still stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but "the clock is ticking."
"We have not lost the opportunity to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons," he said at a news conference after talks with Liam Fox, defence minister in the new Conservative-led British government.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who attended the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Istanbul with Ahmadinejad, said the sanctions should not be "excessive."
"I hold the opinion that this resolution should not be unnecessary, should not put Iran's leadership or the Iranian people into difficulty," Putin said in Istanbul.
In Tehran, a Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the draft as "illogical."
"A probable new resolution against Iran would be illogical, have no legal basis, make everything more complicated and eventually not benefit anybody, either" Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in his weekly press briefing.
In late May, the US announced an agreement on draft sanctions with the other permanent members on the Security Council. The announcement came after leaders of Iran, Turkey and Brazil announced in Tehran the nuclear fuel swap, which was seen as not going far enough to resolve issues with Iran's nuclear programme.
The US said the sanctions would build on top of the three rounds of sanctions imposed on Tehran since 2006.
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said in Washington that Iran has had plenty to time but failed to meaningfully engage in dialogue.
After the vote, "Iran will understand that there are consequences for its failure to come forward," Crowley said, adding that the United States is still open to resolving the dispute diplomatically.