UN Security Council starts debating draft resolutions on anti-Iran sanctions

World countries show varied stances as doubts shroud Iranian-Turkish enrichment deal

Iran sanctions draft targets Iranian investments, ships

IAEA asks Iran for written approval over agreement

Allawi bloc stresses right to form government as victory affirmed

The United States handed the UN Security Council a draft resolution that would expand sanctions against Iran by hitting its banking and other industries for refusing to halt nuclear enrichment.

The 10-page draft, agreed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia after months of negotiations, also calls for international inspection of vessels suspected of carrying cargo related to Iran's nuclear or missile programs.

The text, Western diplomats say, was the result of a series of compromises between the United States and its three European allies, which had pushed for much tougher sanctions against Tehran, and Russia and China, which sought to dilute them.

Few of the proposed measures are new. But Western diplomats said the end result was probably the best they could have hoped for, given China's and Russia's determination to avoid measures that might have undermined Iran's troubled economy. The draft has the backing of all five veto-wielding council members.

The decision to circulate the resolution to the 15-member Security Council was a tacit rebuff to a deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey and made public on Monday in which Iran agreed to send some enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel rods for a medical research reactor.

US officials regard that deal as an attempt by Iran to delay more UN sanctions.

Brazil's UN ambassador made clear her country was unhappy that the United States and its allies appeared to ignore the deal that her country has described as a major breakthrough in the long-running nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.

"Brazil is not engaging in any discussion on a draft at this point because we feel that there is a new situation," Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti told reporters outside the Security Council chamber. "There was an agreement which is a very important one."

A Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not rule out discussions on the draft but said "our focus is on the other track" - referring to the Tehran fuel swap deal.

But US ambassador Susan Rice said the deal had "nothing to do" with the uranium enrichment that led to the threatened sanctions against Iran.

Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, however, spoke to his Turkish and Brazilian counterparts about the Iran nuclear issue and their nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran, China's foreign ministry said on its website.

It said Yang told them that China appreciated their efforts and welcomed the nuclear fuel agreement. Yang said he "hopes that this (agreement) will help to promote peaceful resolution of the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations."

Iran rejects Western allegations that its nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons. It says its atomic ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity and refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.

The draft resolution "calls upon states to take appropriate measures that prohibit" the opening of new Iranian bank branches or offices abroad if there is reason to suspect they might be aiding Iran's nuclear or missile programs.

It also calls on states "to exercise vigilance over transactions involving Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran" to ensure that those transactions do not aid Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.

It urges countries to be wary of dealing with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard and says some members and companies it controls will be added to existing lists of individuals and firms facing asset freezes and travel bans.

The draft, which would represent a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran, calls for an expansion of an already existing arms embargo to include more types of heavy weapons.

Originally, the United States and the Europeans had hoped to impose a total arms embargo against Tehran and blacklist its central bank, but Russia and China had opposed those moves.

Although many of the measures in the resolution are non-binding, diplomats said the European Union and United States would treat calls for "vigilance" against Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and other firms as bans and would pass regulations that go beyond any new UN measures.

"The purpose of sanctions is to bring the Iranian side to the negotiating table," Li said. "The sanctions are not for punishing innocent people and should not harm normal trade."

Several Western diplomats said they hope the council will vote on the resolution early next month. The draft will likely be revised in the coming weeks.

Aside from Turkey and Brazil, council member Lebanon has made clear it would have trouble supporting sanctions against Iran. Lebanon, diplomats say, will likely abstain from a vote on the resolution because the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah is in its government.

The United States handed the UN Security Council a draft resolution that would expand sanctions against Iran by hitting its banking and other industries for refusing to halt nuclear enrichment.

The 10-page draft, agreed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia after months of negotiations, also calls for international inspection of vessels suspected of carrying cargo related to Iran's nuclear or missile programs.

The text, Western diplomats say, was the result of a series of compromises between the United States and its three European allies, which had pushed for much tougher sanctions against Tehran, and Russia and China, which sought to dilute them.

Few of the proposed measures are new. But Western diplomats said the end result was probably the best they could have hoped for, given China's and Russia's determination to avoid measures that might have undermined Iran's troubled economy. The draft has the backing of all five veto-wielding council members.

The decision to circulate the resolution to the 15-member Security Council was a tacit rebuff to a deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey and made public on Monday in which Iran agreed to send some enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel rods for a medical research reactor.

US officials regard that deal as an attempt by Iran to delay more UN sanctions.

Brazil's UN ambassador made clear her country was unhappy that the United States and its allies appeared to ignore the deal that her country has described as a major breakthrough in the long-running nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.

"Brazil is not engaging in any discussion on a draft at this point because we feel that there is a new situation," Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti told reporters outside the Security Council chamber. "There was an agreement which is a very important one."

A Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not rule out discussions on the draft but said "our focus is on the other track" - referring to the Tehran fuel swap deal.

But US ambassador Susan Rice said the deal had "nothing to do" with the uranium enrichment that led to the threatened sanctions against Iran.

Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, however, spoke to his Turkish and Brazilian counterparts about the Iran nuclear issue and their nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran, China's foreign ministry said on its website.

It said Yang told them that China appreciated their efforts and welcomed the nuclear fuel agreement. Yang said he "hopes that this (agreement) will help to promote peaceful resolution of the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations."

Iran rejects Western allegations that its nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons. It says its atomic ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity and refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.

The draft resolution "calls upon states to take appropriate measures that prohibit" the opening of new Iranian bank branches or offices abroad if there is reason to suspect they might be aiding Iran's nuclear or missile programs.

It also calls on states "to exercise vigilance over transactions involving Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran" to ensure that those transactions do not aid Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.

It urges countries to be wary of dealing with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard and says some members and companies it controls will be added to existing lists of individuals and firms facing asset freezes and travel bans.

The draft, which would represent a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran, calls for an expansion of an already existing arms embargo to include more types of heavy weapons.

Originally, the United States and the Europeans had hoped to impose a total arms embargo against Tehran and blacklist its central bank, but Russia and China had opposed those moves.

Although many of the measures in the resolution are non-binding, diplomats said the European Union and United States would treat calls for "vigilance" against Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and other firms as bans and would pass regulations that go beyond any new UN measures.

"The purpose of sanctions is to bring the Iranian side to the negotiating table," Li said. "The sanctions are not for punishing innocent people and should not harm normal trade."

Several Western diplomats said they hope the council will vote on the resolution early next month. The draft will likely be revised in the coming weeks.

Aside from Turkey and Brazil, council member Lebanon has made clear it would have trouble supporting sanctions against Iran. Lebanon, diplomats say, will likely abstain from a vote on the resolution because the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah is in its government.

Iraq's electoral commission affirmed on Sunday the narrow victory of a Sunni-backed bloc in the March vote after a partial recount undercut the Shiite prime minister's claims of fraud in the tally.

The result was a setback for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who came in second to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi by a small margin. But Maliki's alliance with another Shiite bloc still gives him a strong chance of holding on to power for another four years.

"I hope that all political blocs are satisfied now that the electoral process was honest and all allegations of fraud and forgery were totally incorrect," electoral commission spokesman Qassim al-Abboudi told reporters after the results of a recount of votes for the capital Baghdad were announced.

"According to the law, political blocks and candidates can appeal these results, but we hope that no one will do that," Abboudi said.

The recount, as well as other challenges to the March 7 election result, has prevented the seating of the new 325-member parliament and raised fears that the extended period of political bickering will give rise to a new wave of violence as insurgents try to exploit the political vacuum as U.S. troops prepare to go home.

Hadi Jalo, a political analyst in Baghdad, said Maliki's goal in demanding the recount was not to change the total, but to stall so he could work out an agreement with his Shiite allies to stay in power and sideline Allawi.

Maliki's State of Law alliance lost the election, taking home 89 seats to 91 for the bloc headed by Allawi, a secular Shiite supported by the country's minority Sunni community. But neither coalition won the 163 seats required to govern outright.

Baghdad province accounts for so many parliament seats that a significant change in the vote tally could have tilted the overall results in Maliki's favor.

Though the results were a setback for Maliki, they did not hand Allawi the mandate to form the next government.

Instead, Maliki now appears to be in an even better position than he was roughly two weeks ago when the recount began.

His coalition hammered out an agreement with another Shiite bloc, the Iranian-backed Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two are only four seats short of needed majority.

If the already-bickering coalition holds together, it is almost certain to form the next government, possibly cutting out Allawi's list altogether and fueling Shiite anger that could lead to more sectarian violence.