VIENNA, Austria – Western powers will reactivate efforts to punish Iran through possible U.N. Security Council sanctions unless it suspends uranium enrichment and agrees to talks on its nuclear program by July 12, diplomats said Monday.
The envoys – some of them senior U.N. diplomats and all familiar with details of the six-nation drive to persuade Iran to compromise on its nuclear activities – spoke just two days before a key Iran-European Union meeting in Brussels meant to make clear to the Iranians that their time is running out.
On Wednesday, senior EU envoy Javier Solana will urge top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani to commit his country immediately to suspending enrichment and start negotiations, the diplomats said.
They also said Russia and China were closer than ever to supporting the West on U.N. Security Council action – including sanctions – if Tehran refuses the package of incentives meant to wean it off enrichment. Still, they suggested it could take some time to secure total commitment to sanctions from Moscow and Beijing.
“We are looking forward to hear from Iran … the official response,” said Cristina Gallach, Solana’s spokeswoman.
A European official outlined more realistic expectations, saying Larijani would likely come back with questions – and perhaps a counterproposal.
If so, the diplomats said, Solana plans to tell him Iran must accept the terms of the package by July 12, when foreign ministers of the five permanent Security Council nations and Germany meet in Paris.
“If Iran has not answered positively by this date, the ministers will likely adopt a decision to resume negotiations on the Security Council resolution,” said one of the diplomats, who, like the European official, demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging the game plan on Iran.
In Washington, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told C-Span television in an interview to be aired Sunday that if Iran has not responded by July 12, “then I think the pressure will be enormous on the Iranians from all the international community.”
While Iran argues it has a right to the technology under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to generate power, there is increasing international concern that it wants to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels for use in the fissile core of nuclear warheads.