Russia is seeking a delay of a U.N. Security Council vote scheduled for Friday on a resolution penalizing Iran for its suspect nuclear program. VOA's Peter Heinlein has details from U.N. headquarters in New York.
A formal text of a proposed Iran sanctions resolution is all ready for a Security Council vote Friday. But after a meeting of the five permanent Council members Thursday, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he is asking for more time to discuss details of the measure. "I don't think there's going to be a vote tomorrow. Maybe Saturday, yes, but clearly we'll need tomorrow for further thinking and further discussions," he said.
Churkin declined to discuss details of the eleventh-hour Russian concerns, but said the questions he raised at Thursday's meeting were aimed at ensuring that the U.N. sanctions do not penalize Iranians with no nuclear connections. "Two or three issues remain, but those are difficult issues and those are important issues," he said.
One diplomat involved in Thursday's meeting told VOA Russian President Vladimir Putin is himself involved in last minute consultations on the resolution.
The draft scheduled for a vote Friday would prohibit Iranian imports or exports of materials and technology related to uranium enrichment or reprocessing, as well as to ballistic missile delivery systems. The measure would also freeze the assets of 12 people and 11 Iranian companies or agencies named in a list attached to the resolution as being involved in proliferation-sensitive activities.
Earlier versions of the resolution also included a travel ban for those on the list. But Russia objected to the ban, and European sponsors of the measure - Britain, France and Germany - agreed to drop it earlier this week in hopes of winning unanimous Council backing.
Western diplomats say Russia's latest demand is for a weakening of the assets freeze, and a narrowing of the list of companies subject to sanctions.
After Thursday's meeting, European and American ambassadors expressed hope that Russia's objections could be overcome in time for a vote Friday. Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said he would push for a vote even without Russia's approval. "We're hoping to get a consensus resolution, but we want a tough resolution that actually will demonstrate to Iran that the international community is not going to accept their continued violation of their obligations," he said.
The proposed sanctions are the Council's response to Iran's failure to comply with an earlier resolution that set an August 31 deadline for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and return to negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday she is satisfied with the current text, even though it has been softened. She noted that the penalties will still be enforceable under the legally binding Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter.
But Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has said his country will not be intimidated by the threat of sanctions. Iran maintains its nuclear program is peaceful, and has continued uranium enrichment, arguing that it is within its rights to develop a nuclear fuel cycle.