The five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain – along with Germany have submitted a draft resolution to the 10 elected members of the council for consideration.
Three of those countries -- current Security Council president South Africa, Qatar, and Indonesia -- have suggested amendments. The big powers, however, are determined not to allow the package of new sanctions to be weakened.
U.S. Deputy UN Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said March 21 that the amendments will be looked at constructively, but that they should not bring any roll-back of the pressure on Iran. " A number of us indicated that we'd look at [the proposed amendments] in the spirit of the consistency with the conceptual architecture we have through previous resolutions, 1773 and 1696. A unanimous vote is always important to us, but the content obviously is equally important," Wolff said.
The proposed new sanctions are quite modest: they would ban Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of 28 individuals and organizations involved in the country's nuclear and missile programs. They would add to a package of sanctions adopted in December, which ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs.
As it presently stands, the South African-backed amendment would remove some of the sanctions, a course that British UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry described as "totally perverse."
"What is clear and we all accept is that Iran is in noncompliance with mandatory obligations imposed by the Security Council. We think it would be perverse in response to that situation to say, 'By the way, we now lift the obligations which currently apply to Iran,'” Jones Parry said. “But this is an approach based on gradual pressure; proportionate incremental increase in that pressure. At the same time, it is reversible."
France's ambassador to the UN, Jean Marc de la Sabliere, says the major powers want the agreed draft ready for a vote by the end of the week. South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said, however, he doubts that bargaining over the amendments can be completed in time for that vote.
Iran Remains Defiant
One unusual feature of the current debate is that Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad wants to address the UN Security Council shortly before the resolution goes to a vote.
Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders are sticking to their hard line that uranium enrichment will continue in spite of pressure from the world body.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 21 threatened that Iran will break away from international norms of behavior if the UN persists in adding sanctions.
"I tell them that Iran's nuclear work has followed international rules until now, but if the major powers, via the Security Council, take illegal actions and ignore Iran's rights, we can also carry out illegal actions and we will do that,” Khamenei said.
Khamenei did not elaborate on what possible "illegal actions" Tehran might take. But he also threatened reprisals in case of any military action against his country. "If they want to threaten us and use force and violence against us, they should not doubt that Iranian officials will use all they have in their power to deal a blow to those who assault them," he said.