Iran sanctions ‘too tough’

Envoys of Germany and the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, met privately for an hour at Britain’s UN mission in New York to resume discussions on a UN draft resolution mandating nuclear and ballistic-missile-related trade sanctions.

The draft, put forward by Britain, France and Germany, also calls for a freeze on assets related to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and travel bans on scientists involved in those programs.

But it would allow Russia to continue building a one-billion-dollar nuclear power plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr, an exemption that diplomats say is crucial to efforts to gain Moscow’s approval.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin, who returned told reporters after the meeting, “I brought from Moscow some amendments … and we agreed we’ll continue our discussion.”

“We do believe the Bushehr project does not have anything to do with concerns about non-proliferation because it is clearly a peaceful nuclear power plant we are helping the Iranians build,” he added.

“The changes (proposed by the Russians) were extensive and that’s why we didn’t get into a line in line out discussion ourselves. So they circulated theirs (amendments), we’ll circulate ours a little bit later, and we’ll meet next week is my assumption,” his US counterpart John Bolton said.

China’s UN Ambassador Wang Guangya meanwhile said he shared Mr Churkin’s views.

“I think it (the European draft) is a little too tough, it might corner the Iranians,” Mr Wang said.

“China always argues that sanctions measures taken by the Security Council have to be in stages and have to be in a way putting some political pressure on the Iranians to come back to negotiations.”

In Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the European draft as he held talks with top European Union officials.

Although Mr Lavrov voiced willingness to apply “reasonable” and “proportional” measures against Iran, he warned that the European draft went too far.

“What the EU troika drew up went way beyond what had been agreed,” he said.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played down the Russian stance.

“I think you will find that ultimately they won’t block us. I think we will have a resolution that puts sanctions on Iran,” she said.

“It won’t be as strong a resolution as if we had written it ourselves. But I think what you’re seeing is some negotiation right now about what that resolution is going to say.”

A diplomatic source told news agency AFP that Russia wanted the sponsors to drop any reference to Bushehr from the draft and to remove the travel ban and assets freeze.

The European sponsors plan to circulate their draft to the council’s 10 non-permanent members next week.