The United Nations Security Council was unanimous in stating that Iran should stop uranium enrichment. This was a triumph of compromise.
The statement calls upon Iran to "re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, in a manner that is verified by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)."
The council spoke with one clear voice: Iran must suspend enriching uranium, the material that can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
This is an area on which the international community cannot and will not compromise.
The Security Council's unanimous agreement on the statement sends a strong signal to Iran.
However, compromise was at work in ending the deliberation on the draft statement after three weeks of deadlock.
The council has been meeting formally on the subject since March 17, when it took up a report referred to it by the IAEA that voiced concern that "uncertainties related to the scope and nature of Iran's nuclear program have not been clarified after three years of intensive IAEA verification."
Another important aspect of the statement is that the council lends its weight to the IAEA's efforts.
The statement, which had removed a provision saying the Security Council was responsible for international peace and security, frees itself from the basis for tougher action against Iran, including sanctions.
The statement gives the head of the IAEA Mohamed ElBaradei a mandate to report back on Iran's compliance within 30 days.
This is an important message that the Security Council is reinforcing the role of the IAEA rather than replacing or taking over the UN nuclear watchdog.
China is for a statement with an aim to "support all diplomatic efforts which will lead to a negotiated solution," Wang Guangya, China's ambassador to the UN, said.
Maintaining the primacy of the international non-proliferation regime, the international community will keep the door open for diplomatic maneuver.
When Iran stops its uranium enrichment and is in full and verified compliance with the IAEA, a diplomatic and negotiated solution is possible.
The statement asks Iran to take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors, which are essential to building confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear program and to resolve outstanding questions.
The international community is willing to work positively for such a solution, which is believed to help nuclear non-proliferation efforts elsewhere.
Foreign ministers of the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany met in Berlin yesterday to discuss the next steps.
Diplomacy, rather than imposing sanctions or exerting pressures on Iran, should be the way forward.
Given the present sensitive regional situation, to which Iran is also subject, the international community should take a cautious attitude in dealing with the nuclear issue.
With the statement in hand, the Security Council permanent members and the European Union need to continue diplomatic efforts to precipitate the settlement of the issue.
(China Daily March 31, 2006)