The nonbinding statement is meant to urge Iran’s compliance with several already stated demands from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors. Western diplomats argue council action will isolate Iran and encourage it to suspend nuclear enrichment, a step required to develop nuclear weapons.
The statement calls for Iran to “resolve outstanding questions” about the peaceful purposes of its nuclear program and requests that IAEA chief Mohamed ElBarardei report back to the IAEA board and the Security Council within 30 days on Iran’s compliance.
U.S. and European officials suspect Iran’s enrichment efforts are part of a secret nuclear weapons program, though Iran insists the program is for civilian purposes only.
Negotiations between France, Germany and Britain to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program broke off after two-and-a-half years, and Iran resumed uranium enrichment research earlier this year. The IAEA reported the issue to the Security Council on March 8.
The council’s five veto-wielding members — China, Russia, the United States, Britain and France — agreed on the written rebuke on Wednesday after three weeks of intense negotiations and sent the draft for approval by all 15 members of the Security Council.
“The council is expressing its clear concern and is saying to Iran that it should comply with the wishes of the governing board,” said France’s U.N Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere on Wednesday.
The statement acknowledged a country’s right to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons but noted with “serious concern the many IAEA reports and resolutions related to Iran’s nuclear program” and “that the IAEA is unable to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.”
The final draft includes significant concessions to Russia and China, which oppose using sanctions against Iran and want the statement to ensure that the IAEA, not the United Nations, would confront Iran if it fails to comply with U.N. demands.
Russia insisted that a provision naming the United Nations responsible for international peace and security be removed out of fears that the statement could later be used as a legal basis for sanctions or a military strike.
“As many of our European and Chinese colleagues have stated more than once, any ideas involving the use of force or pressure in resolving the issue are counterproductive and cannot be supported,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.
The West has not ruled out sanctions and U.S. officials said the threat of military action is also on the table, though Britain has rejected military intervention.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said the statement sent a strong message for the council to support the IAEA’s authority.
Foreign ministers of the five permanent members and Germany will meet on Thursday to map out a strategy for handling Iran. Diplomats would not say exactly what will happen if Iran does not comply within the 30 days.