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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

07 March 2007

State's Burns Reports Progress on New Iran Sanctions

United States remains committed to diplomatic solution to nuclear standoff

Washington – Diplomats representing the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany have conferred several times over the past week on a new round of sanctions aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear program and have agreed that a new Chapter 7 resolution is in order, according to U.S. Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns.

“I'm very pleased by the constructive attitude of Russia and of China and of the European countries. We have not yet agreed on the specific nature of the sanctions for the second resolution, but we have agreed that we must answer this blatant disregard for its obligations that Iran has shown, and we hope that this resolution can be passed as quickly as possible,” he told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee March 6.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (collectively known as the P5+1), which have been coordinating a response to Iran’s nuclear program, are expected to begin drafting the text of a new resolution soon, according to the U.S. State Department. (See related article.)

The Security Council imposed a first round of sanctions on Iran December 23, 2006, and began considering a second round when Iran failed to respect a February 21 deadline for suspending its uranium enrichment activities.  A resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. bylaws gives the council the broadest array of punitive options, including economic, political and military measures.

Burns said he expects the new sanctions to tighten economic constraints on Iran, specifically by limiting export credits to companies doing business in the Islamic republic.

“Iran needs and wants integration,” he said. “It wants investment. … It needs to import 60 percent of its gasoline. And it needs that kind of continual flow of investment funds, and we're trying to choke that off.”

Burns said the first round of sanctions, which restricted trade in nuclear-related materials and equipment, sparked an encouraging political debate in Iran.  “This is not a monolithic political culture in Iran,” he said. “It is a highly divided, and I would say fairly tumultuous political environment.”  He expressed the hope that additional sanctions would continue to inspire internal opposition to the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos and ranking member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen proposed to strengthen the United States’ Iran Sanctions Act, which sanctions foreign companies for doing business with Iran, by eliminating the administration’s ability to grant waivers to certain companies.

Burns resisted this proposal, saying that the United States should focus its sanctions on Iran and not target other countries doing business there.  “If the focus of the United States' effort is to sanction our allies and not sanction Iran, that may not be the best way to maintain this very broad international coalition that we have built up since March of 2005,” he said.

He added that other countries already are taking measures to restrict their economic relations with Iran and should be given encouragement rather than threats.

“The Japanese government informed us last week that they are beginning to reduce their export credits to Iran. The European Union governments, both collectively and individually -- Germany, Italy, France -- are beginning to do that as well. That's an encouraging trend, which we want to push on,” he said.

Burns said that the economic sanctions are just one part of a broad U.S. strategy aimed at confronting Iran over its nuclear ambitions.  “We're trying to weave together multiple pressure points on Iran -- the carrier battle groups in the Gulf, the pushback against them in Iraq that we've done over the last month, the Security Council sanctions,” he said. 

But he added that the administration remains committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the problem.  “I do not believe that a military confrontation with Iran is either inevitable or desirable,” he said. “If we continue a skillful, patient, energetic diplomatic course, and we have the patience to play it out over the mid- to long term, I'm confident we can avoid a conflict, and we can see this larger American strategy in the Middle East vis-à-vis Iran succeed.”

He stated unequivocally that the Bush administration has not sought regime change in Tehran.  “Our policy is one of seeing change in the behavior of the Iranian government,” he said.

For additional information, see Limiting Nuclear Weapons.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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