Iran will face UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to halt its nuclear program, France's foreign minister said Wednesday, but major powers are still divided on exactly how far punishment should go.
"The question is about the scope of sanctions but there will be sanctions," Philippe Douste-Blazy said on RTL radio.
"Are we in a hurry? Yes," he added later after meeting Israel's foreign minister. "Are we ready to go as far as sanctions? Yes."
The measures would fall under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, Douste-Blazy said. The article authorizes the Security Council to impose non-military sanctions such as completely or partially severing diplomatic and economic relations, transportation and communications links.
A day earlier, at closed-door talks in Paris, France and five other major powers failed to reach an accord on a UN resolution to punish Iran, although the French Foreign Ministry said there was "substantive progress" and that "we are now close to a conclusion of this process."
A senior European diplomat said the five permanent Security Council members, which include France, plus Germany remained split over key questions of visa bans and asset freezes for Iranians linked to nuclear development.
Douste-Blazy, however, played down differences, saying the talks confirmed major powers' desire to act in concert. "We agreed on one thing: There will be a resolution at the UN Security Council in a unified manner, including China and Russia," he said. He said he expects to speak with his counterparts from the five other nations "very soon."
After months of diplomatic wrangling, the United States and France had hoped the talks would produce a resolution to impose sanctions on Iran for defying UN demands to stop uranium enrichment. The process can produce material for atomic warheads as well as electricity.
Russia is resisting wide-ranging sanctions, but was said to have made some concessions. The Russians agreed to a measure prohibiting financial transfers to "problematic" Iranians linked to nuclear or ballistic programs, a European diplomat said, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Russia still opposes the broader asset freeze that the European players Britain, France and Germany proposed in a draft UN resolution presented in October, the diplomat said.
And the question of travel bans for those involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs remains "blocked," he said.
The Europeans and Americans support the bans; Russia opposes them.
The Security Council has been at odds over how to deal with Iran's defiance of an August 31 UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment. Western powers accuse Iran of seeking nuclear bombs, while Tehran insists it only wants nuclear energy.
The Europeans and Americans want tough sanctions; Russia and China have pushed for dialogue, despite the failure of an EU effort to bring the Iranians to the negotiating table.
Currently, all are working off the European draft resolution and Russia's suggested amendments to it.
The resolution would order all countries to ban the supply of materials and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
(China Daily December 7, 2006)