LONDON — The United States and its allies called for a U.N. vote toay on imposing new sanctions on Iran’s suspect nuclear program, and U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said those would be followed by even stricter unilateral penalties by Washington and others.
The international sanctions, up for a vote before the U.N. Security Council, would be tougher than previous penalties but still far short of crippling economic punishments or an oil embargo. Gates, speaking in London, predicted passage and said the U.S. and some of its European allies are considering additional tougher measures.
“The strategy here is a combination of diplomacy and pressure to persuade the Iranians that they are headed in the wrong direction in terms of their own security, that they will undermine their security by pursuit of nuclear weapons, not enhance it,” Gates said.
The final version of the U.N. resolution, which was obtained Monday by The Associated Press, would ban Iran from pursuing “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” bar Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining, and prohibit Iran from buying several categories of heavy weapons.
A list of new individuals and entities — including from Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard — that would be subject to sanctions, including an asset freeze was agreed to on Tuesday, a council diplomat familiar with the negotiations said.
In New York, Mexico’s U.N. Ambassador Claude Heller, the current council president, told reporters that the Security Council vote would take place at 8 a.m. today.
The Security Council held a private meeting Tuesday afternoon on Iran, which was to meet some of the concerns of Brazil and Turkey who had called for an open “political debate” on the broader Iranian nuclear issue first.
Neither Brazil nor Turkey is one of the five veto-holding permanent members of the council, although both are currently non-permanent members of the 15-member body.
They recently announced a fuel-swap agreement with Iran aimed at addressing concerns that it may be enriching uranium for nuclear weapons.
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy, but the United States and its Western allies believe Tehran’s real goal is to produce atomic weapons.
After weeks of closed-door negotiations, the U.S., Britain and France won crucial support from Russia and China for new sanctions, but they have faced a tough campaign to get backing from the rest of the Security Council.
When the original draft resolution was circulated on Oct. 18 — shortly after the Turkey-Brazil-Iran deal was announced — diplomats said Brazil refused to negotiate, and it has expressed opposition to new sanctions along with Turkey and Lebanon.
The latest draft, circulated “in blue” text signalling it is in final form, adds language noting Turkey and Brazil’s efforts “that could serve as a confidence building measure.”