Washington and its European allies hope to see a vote soon on the new draft resolution.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with the AFP news agency on December 11 that she was optimistic the resolution could pass in the Security Council soon.
Rice declined to predict a vote date but said: "It has to be voted soon. I think this has gone on long enough."
Washington's optimism comes as the new draft resolution - submitted by Britain, France and Germany on December 8 -- has gotten less resistance from Russia than a previous European proposal to penalize Iran.
The new European initiative would press Tehran to heed UN calls to stop uranium enrichment by calling on all nations to ban the transfer of materials that could contribute to Iran's "enrichment-related, reprocessing, or heavy-water-related activities."
Those are all activities that Iran is authorized to engage in under international treaties, but which Western states fear Iran is pursuing in order to develop nuclear weapons.
The new European draft resolution also would impose a travel ban upon, and freeze funds controlled by, entities or individuals associated with Iran's nuclear or missile program.
In an effort to enlist Russian and Chinese support, the wording makes it clear that the world body wants to pursue only diplomatic solutions to the Iran nuclear standoff.
The draft resolution invokes Chapter 7, Article 41, of the UN Charter, which makes enforcement mandatory, but excludes military action.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on December 11 that he is happy the new draft does not propose "broad sanctions."
"[The new draft resolution] does not propose broad sanctions but contains a list of concrete measures to prevent the supply of technologies [to Iran] that are a matter of concern to the [International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA]," Lavrov said.
Moscow is expressing reservations over some of the terms, including the travel ban and financial sanctions on individuals -- saying that could hamper Iran's ability to pursue its nuclear-energy program.
Russia objected to an earlier European draft initiative, saying it would have prevented Iran from maintaining a commercial energy program.
The Bushehr Project
The centerpiece of Iran's commercial energy program is a nuclear energy reactor near the Persian Gulf port city of Bushehr, which Moscow is constructing under a deal worth some $800 million.
The new European draft makes no mention of Bushehr, which is slated to begin operation in late 2007 as Iran's first nuclear power plant.
China has yet to comment publicly on the new wording. But in the past Beijing -- like Moscow -- has insisted that any resolution aim only at a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Iran earlier this month warned the European authors of the new draft resolution not to pursue their efforts to obtain sanctions.
"If you [the international community] continue making efforts to halt the progress of the Iranian nuclear program and if you take any step against the Iranian nation's rights, either in propaganda or international bodies, the Iranian nation will consider this an act of hostility," Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Mazandaran Province on December 11.
Under the new draft wording, the targeted sanctions against Iran could be lifted if the head of the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, decides Iran has stopped uranium enrichment, has stopped its efforts to build a heavy-water nuclear reactor, and is returning to negotiations.
The head of the IAEA would be required to report 60 days after the resolution is adopted.
The question now is whether Russia and China can successfully press for removal of the most sensitive sanctions -- such as the ban on travel -- or will have to choose to support or veto the draft text as it is.
A veto by Russia or China would make it impossible for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution.
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]."
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