MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov.) - The UN Security Council, which was to meet March 21 to adopt a statement on Iran's nuclear dossier, has delayed its session.
The postponement looks like a boon for Iran. The initial wording of the statement stipulated extremely harsh conditions for interaction between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. In fact, if the session were held, the dossier would have been turned over from the IAEA to the UN Security Council, which might have approved sanctions against Iran.
This may come as a present for the Iranian New Year, Nawruz, but not as a surprise, due to the big divide between the five veto-holding UN Security Council members over the issue.
The UN Security Council chairman's statement on Iran's nuclear program, drafted by France and Britain (permanent members of the Security Council and part of the European Troika), should have set a two-week deadline for Iran's resumption of its uranium enrichment moratorium. Before that, everyone predicted at least a 30-day deadline. The IAEA head was also to deliver a routine report on the Iranian program at the council session.
The United States wholeheartedly supported the draft (which Washington could have dictated word for word), whereas Russia and China opposed it. The advocates (the U.S., France and Britain) and opponents (Russia and China) of a harsh policy in dealing with Iran could not agree on the deadlines for Tehran's final decision on uranium enrichment or on the provision of relevant information to the Security Council.
Russia and China said the issue could be discussed at the Security Council no sooner than in four to six weeks, or better still after the next session of the IAEA Board of Governors. The two countries rejected as nonsense the clause on obligatory provision of the IAEA head's report to the Security Council.
When Russia and China supported the February 4 IAEA resolution on Iran, which provided for IAEA General Director Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei reporting to the UN Security Council, they considered it a one-shot deal, adding to the next clause a phrase according to which reporting did not amount to the transfer of the Iranian file to the Security Council (signifying the IAEA's refusal to work with Iran).
In fact, Russia and China have called for using a regular scheme, under which ElBaradei would report to the Board of Governors. If the Russian-Chinese formula were adopted as the basis, the Iranian problem would have been returned to the IAEA, a scenario Washington refused to consider.
As it was 18 months ago, the situation is deadlocked, though Washington is trying to sound optimistic. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush Administration was convinced the Iranian statement by the UN Security Council chairman, which was drafted with some difficulty, would eventually be adopted. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said it would take a couple of days to prepare the chairman's statement. He seems to be overlooking the fact that Moscow and Beijing have expressed their unwillingness to support the current wording of the statement.
Burns predicts that the states (led by Russia and China) opposing some clauses of the statement will eventually approve the revised wording, because its key provisions, which are being discussed in New York, are completely identical to the contents of the IAEA Board of Governors' resolution on Iran adopted February 4 with the support of Moscow and Beijing.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who late last week spoke on the results of Iranian consultations of the Five-Plus-One group (Russia, the United States, China, Britain and France as Security Council permanent members, and Germany as part of the European Troika at the talks with Iran), hinted that Washington might agree to give Tehran a month to ponder the issue.
Moscow and Beijing's categorical opinion of the draft statement and Washington's firm resolve mean a one-monthbreather for Iran.