U.S., major powers agree on new Iran sanctions

Russia and China are on board after intricate negotiations with the rest of the U.N. Security Council

Published May 18, 2010 7:07PM (EDT)

The United States won agreement from China, Russia and other major powers on tough new sanctions against Iran's nuclear program Tuesday, a day after Tehran sought to stave off penalties through a deal to swap nuclear materials.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Senate committee that the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. -- along with Germany would present the full council with a draft resolution later Tuesday, capping months of diplomatic maneuvering and painstaking negotiations.

Clinton said she spent Tuesday morning on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov "finalizing the resolution."

Details were not immediately released, but the sanctions are expected to broaden economic penalties on Iranian officials and institutions.

The agreement appeared to be a significant victory for the Obama administration, which doggedly pursued sanctions since Iran rebuffed U.S. overtures last year. The pursuit was complicated by initial resistance from Russia and China, either of which could have vetoed the deal.

But in recent weeks, Russia and China have been persuaded to support increased pressure on Iran.

Perhaps more significantly, Clinton's announcement came just one day after Iran, Brazil and Turkey said they had agreed on a plan for Iran to swap nuclear materials.

Many believed the last-minute agreement would blunt the U.S.-led drive for a fourth round of U.N penalties on Iran.

Clinton said the sanctions deal was a rejection of Iran's efforts to forestall penalties.

"This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken by Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We don't believe it was any accident that Iran agreed to this declaration as we were preparing to move forward in New York."

In Tehran, the Iranian foreign ministry said before Clinton's announcement it expected the U.S. and its allies to accept a nuclear fuel swap deal despite their initial skepticism.

"If the Western countries continue seeking excuses, it will be clear that they are not after a solution to the issue and have no logical option on the table," ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

U.S. and European officials had warned the Brazilian-Turkish-brokered proposal allows Iran to keep enriching uranium, keeping the door open to pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

The swap was concluded during a visit to Tehran by Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who has fought against a new round of sanctions.

Both Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was also in Tehran for the announcement, urged the international community to support the deal.

"I think Iran has taken a leap forward," Erdogan told on Tuesday.

But in her testimony in Washington, Clinton repeated the U.S. skepticism about the agreement, saying "there are a number of unanswered questions regarding the announcement coming from Tehran."

Clinton telephoned other foreign ministers working on the sanctions resolution over the weekend, contending that in the U.S. view the Iran fuel swap proposal did not go far enough, one State Department official said, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.

U.N. diplomats said the sanctions would be presented to the entire 15-member Security Council at a 4 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

Ahead of that meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Iran has failed to meet its international obligations on its nuclear program and called on Tehran to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency's demands, said U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky.

The secretary-general said Iran's deal with Turkey and Brazil "could be a positive step in building confidence about Iran's nuclear program, if followed by broader engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community," Nesirky said.

The Vienna-based IAEA has received the text of the Iran-Turkey-Brazil pact and expects written confirmation of the terms from Tehran, Nesirky said.


Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer and John Heilprin at the United Nations, and Barry Schweid in Washington, contributed to this report.

By Anne Flaherty

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Iran Nuclear Weapons United Nations