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Powers Agree To Consult On Sanctions Against Iran

Margaret Beckett (file photo) (epa) October 7, 2006 -- Seeking to defuse the Iranian nuclear crisis, Britain, France, China, Germany, Russia, and the United States have agreed to consult on possible UN sanctions against Iran.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, who hosted the talks in London, said on October 6 that the six foreign ministers had agreed "to consult on measures" under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter.

Article 41 authorizes the Security Council to apply economic or diplomatic sanctions to enforce its decisions, but excludes military force.

Incentives Still On Offer

Speaking on behalf of the six powers, Beckett said they were "deeply disappointed" that Tehran is not prepared to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities.

"In Vienna [in June], we said that there are two paths ahead," she said. "We regret that Iran has not yet taken the positive one. We will continue our efforts to find a negotiated solution, and our proposals of June 1 remain on the table."

Beckett was referring to a package of economic incentives offered to Iran by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to convince Tehran to give up its sensitive nuclear work.

In its reply, Iran pointed to some "ambiguities" and rejected suspension of uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said on October 6 that the package will still be on offer if the Islamic republic changes its position.

...But Sanctions Possible

Burns told reporters that the six powers would next week start drafting a Security Council resolution on imposing sanctions on Iran. He said the six powers decided that they will opt for sanctions, adding that "the question is what the extent of the sanctions will be."

The United States has been pushing for sanctions against Iran after Tehran missed a UN Security Council deadline to stop uranium enrichment. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. But it can also be used in the production of nuclear bombs.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, but the West fears Iran is seeking to secretly develop atomic weapons.

Calls For More Dialogue

Russia and China, countries with economic interest in Iran, have so far opposed the use of sanctions against Tehran and have called for diplomacy.

Mahmud Ahmadinejad (epa file photo)

Following the October 6 talks in London, Russia reiterated the need for talks with Iran. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying that countries will hold consultations at the UN Security Council "on additional measures" to incite Iran to accept the June proposal.

Iranian officials have said on many occasions that any possible sanctions would not stop Tehran from enriching uranium.

On October 4, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said his country is powerful and won't give in to "one iota" of coercion. However, he said Iran is ready for talks.

"We are in favor of talks, we are in favor of debate, we are in favor of peace and understanding, but in the framework of law, in the framework of justice," Ahmadinejad said.

On October 5, EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana said that the door to dialogue should stay open.

Meanwhile a senior U.S. official was quoted by agencies as saying that the six major powers would begin discussing imposing "graduated sanctions" against Iran, starting with measures aimed at restricting its nuclear industry.

The unnamed official said representatives of the six countries would be in touch next week to take the issue to the UN.

What Would Sanctions Mean?

What Would Sanctions Mean?

Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)

MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."


Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
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THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.