Major powers try again on Thursday to negotiate sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment but remain divided over how stiff the measures should be, diplomats said. Although envoys from six nations have repeatedly said they wanted to move quickly on a new UN Security Council resolution, disagreements emerged on nearly all the measures, said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the talks.
“It’s a tough resolution,” China’s deputy ambassador Liu Zhenmin said of the negotiations in remarks to reporters on Wednesday.
Senior foreign ministry officials from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany have scheduled a conference call for Thursday before UN ambassadors return to drafting a text.
On Wednesday, the American, British, French and German diplomats conferred with European Union officials by telephone after a planned meeting among the six was delayed.
The United States and leading European countries suspect Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic program. Tehran denies the charge and says its program is for generating electricity only.
Under discussion is a mandatory travel ban on Iranian officials connected with the nuclear program, an arms embargo, restrictions on export credits and an expansion of an earlier list of Iranian officials, groups and companies whose assets would be frozen.
But Russia and China are described by diplomats as balking at the mandatory travel ban as well as the scope of an arms embargo. And even European nations said they have problems how far-reaching bans on export credits should be.
The draft resolution, which was to have been submitted to the full 15-nation UN Security Council this week, is described as incremental. “Nobody is talking about a full-blown sanctions resolution that’s widespread, that covers all the Iranian economy,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington on Wednesday.
The measure is a follow-up to a resolution adopted by the Security Council on Dec. 23 that imposed trade sanctions on sensitive nuclear materials and technology and froze assets of key Iranians individuals, groups and businesses.
The council had given Tehran 60 days to halt nuclear enrichment or face additional measures.
The new resolution is also expected to give Iran another 60 days to comply with demands that it halt its nuclear enrichment work, which can provide fuel for power plants.