United Nations/Washington, May 19 (IANS) Even as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a nuclear fuel swap deal for Iran worked out by Brazil and Turkey could be a positive step, the United States introduced a UN resolution for new sanctions against Tehran.
The resolution introduced Tuesday with pivotal support from China and Russia seeks sanctions against Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard and new measures to try to curtail Iran's military, financial and shipping activities.
The draft resolution would ban Iran from pursuing "any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons," freeze assets of nuclear-related companies linked to the Revolutionary Guard, bar Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining and prohibit Iran from buying several categories of heavy weapons.
The draft resolution stresses the willingness of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council - US, Russia, China, France and Britain -- "to further enhance diplomatic efforts to promote dialogue and consultations ... without preconditions."
US Ambassador Susan Rice said the resolution would give "greater teeth" to existing sanctions and add "strong" new measures to intensify pressure on the Iranian government to resolve concerns that its nuclear programme is peaceful and not aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
She presented the draft to the 10 non-permanent council members - including Brazil and Turkey - and said the US will work hard to win support from as many members as possible. She said she is confident the resolution will get the minimum 9 "yes" votes.
Rice said the US considers new sanctions "urgent" but wouldn't speculate on when the resolution will be put to a vote.
Meanwhile, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said the secretary-general believes Iran's deal with Turkey and Brazil "could be a positive step in building confidence about Iran's nuclear programme, if followed by broader engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community."
The IAEA has received the text of the Joint Declaration signed yesterday by Iran, Brazil and Turkey, and the Agency is awaiting written notification from Tehran that it agrees with the relevant provisions in the agreement.
The Secretary-General, Nesirky said, looks forward to the IAEA's assessment on the substantive elements of the Declaration.
"He also urges once again that Iran comply fully with the relevant Security Council resolutions and provide cooperation to the IAEA to the fullest extent to resolve all the outstanding concerns over its nuclear programmes."
Under the agreement brokered by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Iran will ship its low-enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for high-enriched uranium for use at a civilian nuclear research site in Tehran.
Iranian authorities hold that the country's activities are for peaceful purposes, while the US and its allies contend they are driven by military ambitions.
The IAEA has repeatedly stated that it cannot confirm that all Iran's nuclear material is for peaceful activities because the country has not provided the necessary cooperation.
Rice said the draft will "increase the cost to Iran's leadership for its continued defiance, and to persuade Iran that it is in its interests to peacefully resolve concerns over its nuclear programme."
She said the door remains open for a diplomatic solution if Iran chooses to live up to its nuclear obligations.
Rice cited new categories of sanctions including a demand for suspension of nuclear activities and "broad-based measures targeting pressure points associated with Iran's nuclear proliferation activities".
The sanctions would ban Iran's nuclear activities abroad and put binding new restrictions on imports of conventional arms and on all activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and impose a comprehensive cargo inspection framework to deter smuggling of weapons.
The draft would call on UN members to take appropriate measures that prohibit "the opening of new branches, subsidiaries or representative offices of Iranian banks" if they are suspected of links with nuclear proliferation.
The draft calls for vigilance on transactions involving Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, in order to prevent transactions related to the proliferation of sensitive nuclear activities.
The French and British ambassadors welcomed the US draft. British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the draft was "balanced", aiming at Iran's dual-use materials in its nuclear programme, which can either be used for civilian or military purposes.
"We are trying to move on with the draft resolution as soon as possible," Grant told reporters.
China's UN Ambassador Li Baotong did not specifically support the draft sanctions. "It does not mean that the doors for a diplomatic solution is closed," he said. "Diplomacy is the best way to address Iran's nuclear issue."
Li praised Brazil and Turkey for their "very good initiative" in working out a deal to ship Iran's low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for civilian nuclear fuel.
The US draft was handed to the council's 10 elected members, but none of them made comment following the closed-door meeting. It was not known when the council would resume discussion on the draft sanctions.