TEHRAN (FNA) – A one month delay to consider a new UN Security Council draft resolution against Iran’s nuclear program would not be a disaster, a South African official said on Thursday.
The Security Council’s five permanent members – the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France – along with Germany have circulated a draft that would toughen existing sanctions on Iran. The text calls for asset freezes and travel bans on specific Iranian officials.
Ambassadors from the group, known as the P5+1, are meeting with representatives of South Africa – a non permanent member of the Security Council – on Thursday to discuss the proposals.
“One-month (delay) cannot cause a nuclear disaster but I don’t know what the P5+1 have in their minds,” George Nene, head of multilateral affairs in South Africa’s foreign ministry told reporters during a briefing in Pretoria.
Council diplomats have said it will take weeks before the UN Security Council is ready to vote on the new round of sanctions.
South Africa is an important member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a bloc of developing countries that has resisted the idea of forcing Iran to halt uranium enrichment. They worry that wealthier countries want a monopoly on enriching uranium fuel.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to deliver a report at the end of February or in early March after lengthy talks with Tehran over the country’s nuclear work.
The United States, which has spearheaded the drive for new sanctions on Iran, and other western powers claims Iran’s nuclear activities are aimed at building atomic weapons.
US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.
Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and a similar report by the IAEA head in November which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities, Russia and China increased resistance to any further punitive measures by the Security Council.
Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.
Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needed to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it was building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.
Iran has also pledged to clear up all remaining questions over the program by late February.
Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.
US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East earlier this month, has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.
But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.
Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the IAEA and US intelligence reports.