A new resolution is being discussed following Iran's refusal to comply with a 60-day Security Council deadline to halt uranium-enrichment activities. A trade ban on sensitive weapons-related materials and other sanctions were imposed on Iran in a resolution adopted by the Security Council in December.
Diplomats from permanent Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States, along with Germany, held talks on March 6 in a bid to reach agreement on the elements of a resolution that could impose new sanctions.
French UN representative Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said the council is seeking agreement on a set of "incremental" measures against Tehran.
"We have identified some elements which could be new measures which could be consistent with this incremental approach," Sabliere said. "We have decided to continue our work today with a meeting at the level of the ambassadors and also experts among the six. We will see by the end of the day where we are. We may have to send it back to capitals, we may continue here if we [have] progress. Our objective is to go swiftly, but as you know these issues are technical, are difficult."
British UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry took a similar line in comments to journalists in New York on March 6.
"We continue our efforts talking about the fundamental approach, talking about the elements that we would put in a resolution, that this resolution would be an incremental racheting up of the measures," he said. "That's the approach which is agreed. At the same time we understand that the diplomatic path is open, but that's very much down to the government in Tehran, whether it's prepared to take those decisions."
Iran says it has a right to peaceful uranium-enrichment work under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has repeatedly denied allegations that it is trying to produce nuclear weapons.
Afraid Of Sanctions?
WHAT DOES TEHRAN REALLY THINK? On August 22, Radio Farda correspondent Fatemeh Aman spoke with Alex Vatanka, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group, by telephone from Alexandria, Virginia. Vatanka discussed the possible impact that comprehensive sanctions could have for Iran.
Radio Farda: Some Iranian authorities are trying to create the impression that they aren't concerned about the possibility of international sanctions against it. They emphasize that what Iran has achieved so far has happened despite the sanctions already in place against it. Are they really not afraid of sanctions?
Vatanka: I think that what the Iranians are trying to do is to continue to play this balancing act. On the one hand, they are trying to say, "Look, we have done without you for 27 years; we can continue." On the other hand, if you look at every other major Iranian overture toward the U.S., obviously what they are hoping to do is remove those sanctions. It is the sanctions that have been the biggest obstacle to a genuine expansion in the Iranian economy. It is the sanctions and U.S. policies vis-a-vis Iran that have, for instance, kept Iran from joining the World Bank. It is sanctions and so on that have made the Iranian oil industry have such a tough time in bringing investment into the strategic oil and gas sectors. People like [former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-]Rafsanjani back in the mid 1990s even kept certain fields untouched because the idea was that U.S. companies should have those once the sanctions were lifted.
I think sanctions are quite important to the Iranians, but at the same time what they are trying to say is, "Don't assume that we are going to fall off our chair just because you mentioned the sanctions card." It is part of a kind diplomatic chess game going on by Tehran. But remember if we look and listen to Iranian reformists, this is being openly debated inside Iran. The question that is being asked of [President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his entourage] is, "What is the ultimate objective?" Is it just Islamic independence? Is it just the ability to enrich uranium? The debate in Iran by the reformists -- and I think a lot of people would sympathize with this -- is, "What are we being sanctioned for exactly and what policies do you have to make sure that those sanctions don't hit us harder than we have already been hit?"
Remember, the big issue here is this: Iran has been sanctioned by the U.S. Iran has never faced comprehensive United Nations sanctions. The Iranian people have never suffered on a scale that the Iraqi people, for instance, suffered because of such sanctions. So it is kind of disingenuous of these senior leaders to pretend that Iran has already gone through comprehensive sanctions. Iran has not. And it will be totally different set of circumstances that will have a totally different impact on Iranian society and the economy, should the UN impose comprehensive sanctions on the country.