U.S. Circulates New Draft Proposal for Iran Sanctions
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: March 3, 2010
UNITED NATIONS — The United States is circulating a draft of new, tougher sanctions against Iran that concentrate on the banking, shipping and insurance sectors of its economy, and is now waiting for China and Russia to signal that they are willing to start negotiating over the measures, Security Council diplomats said Wednesday.
The diplomats said the proposed new sanctions call for an outright ban on certain transactions with Iran, whereas the existing sanctions call on United Nations members to exercise “vigilance” or “restraint” in interacting with Iran in some areas of weapons trade, shipping and banking. The focus is on the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps, which runs a vast array of Iranian businesses, while the oil industry is not included, diplomats said.
The proposed new sanctions seek to expand other aspects of those already in place, including the list of banks singled out previously, adding at least the country’s central bank to Bank Melli and Bank Saderat targeted before. The proposed new sanctions would also expand the list of individuals facing a travel ban and assets freeze for their work in the nuclear program. Sanctions to date, which run to some six pages, have singled out companies and individuals involved in the nuclear and missile development programs or help to finance them. They include a ban on arms exports
There has been no reaction to the draft from China, which has publicly opposed sanctions, but the United States and its Security Council allies are hoping that James B. Steinberg, the deputy U.S. secretary of state, would elicit one Wednesday in talks in Beijing. He is the first American official to be able to reach senior members of the government with the draft, diplomats said.
At the United Nations, the previous Chinese permanent representative, Zhang Yesui, has left to take up his new post as ambassador to Washington. The new ambassador, Li Baodong, who previously represented China at the United Nations in Geneva, will only present his credentials to begin work on Thursday.
The proposed measures, already negotiated between the United States, Britain, France and Germany, will likely be diluted in further talks. The initial reaction from Russia was negative, saying the measures are too strong, diplomats involved in the talks said, with one noting “There is quite a bit that they didn’t like.” Yet Moscow continues to endorse the idea of new sanctions in tandem with negotiations.
“When we sought and continue to seek to keep the negotiation window open, Iran has not followed up with the appropriate responses that we expected,” Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, told a news conference late Tuesday.
He said Russia was increasingly concerned about the latest conclusions from the International Atomic Energy Agency indicating that Iran may be seeking to develop a nuclear weapon despite its claims that all its research is for a peaceful nuclear program.
“When they are not satisfied with what they see in their cooperation with Tehran, we are obviously also very concerned,” Mr. Churkin said. “This raises worries about the nature of their nuclear program.”
Mr. Churkin said he had still not received instructions from Moscow to begin negotiations over the new round of sanctions. Still, that puts Beijing in the position of being the lone standout among the six countries that have been trying to negotiate with Iran.
The main leverage the four countries have in support of sanctions is that Moscow and Beijing still want the forum of six to continue to be the main arena for such talks, even though the others are expected to implement their own sanctions no matter what the outcome of the Security Council negotiations.
Mr. Churkin said as much. “The value of the six is obvious,” he said. “I see no reason why the six cannot continue to work effectively in hammering out joint positions in our dealing with Iran.”
The Western nations want a Security Council resolution finished before May, when the world powers will be engaged in reviewing the global Non-Proliferation Treaty and when Lebanon, home to the Hezbollah militant group closely allied with Iran, will be president of the Security Council. President Obama in holding a nuclear summit meeting in Washington on April 12-13, so diplomats anticipate if the sanctions are not negotiated by then the leaders themselves might be able to work out any differences.
In previous rounds of sanctions negotiations, the opening position of both Russia and China has been that the sanctions are much too strong, and that there is insufficient proof to link all the suggested entities or individuals to nuclear proliferation activities. So intelligence experts from the United States, France, Britain and Germany are amassing as much evidence as possible to expand the list of specific entities, which is usually included in an annex of the sanctions resolution.
One diplomat, expressing frustration with the level of proof demanded by China and Russia, said their negotiators go down the list as if they are expecting to get “a picture of each guy building the bomb.” But that degree of detail rarely exists, and that it how the pursuit of tougher sanctions begins unraveling, said the diplomat, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.