It is more than five months beyond the U.N.'s deadline for Iran to cease its controversial uranium enrichment program or it would face punitive action, yet Tehran continues to ignore Security Council demands.
Explaining the frustration felt at the U.S. mission to the U.N., spokesman Ric Grenell tells Newsmax, "We want a vote ASAP, but the Russians are not ready" to impose a third round of sanctions against Iran.
Iran has not only continued its uranium enrichment, but recently introduced more advanced equipment that could more easily be diverted for military use, asserted the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s atomic watchdog.
Last Friday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei reported to the agency's board of governors that Iran continues to ignore the U.N. demands. ElBaradei admitted that some central questions regarding Iran's nuclear program have been satisfactorily resolved, but others remain unanswered.
Upon the release of the IAEA report, Iranian officials immediately declared the nuclear issue closed and demanded that the U.S. and U.N. apologize for seeking additional punitive measures.
Tehran has repeatedly insisted its nuclear activities are peaceful and civilian oriented. The White House has responded that much of Iran's "peaceful" nuke activities could easily be diverted for military use.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and France, three of the Council's members pushing for new sanctions, rejected the Iranian demands and reacted by moving the issue officially onto the Council's agenda.
The proposal before the 15-member body would impose travel restrictions on Iranian personnel connected with its nuclear program. It would also impose new import-export restrictions on items that could have a nuclear-military application, as well as on banks that could finance such purposes.
According to diplomats, the Council has three main holdouts: Russia (a veto-wielding permanent member), Libya, and South Africa. While a Russian veto is unlikely, Washington would like unanimity among the Council's "Permanent 5" if not among all 15 members.
Only nine yes votes, along with zero vetoes, are needed for new sanctions to be imposed, but most diplomats believe that the U.S. does have the minimum amount of votes needed for the draft resolution to be adopted.
Russia, it is believed, would like "incentives" for Iran to halt its enrichment activities. Washington says no.
Behind the scenes is the issue of Russia providing the vast amount of nuclear assistance to Tehran. To date, Moscow has been paid more than $2 billion by Iran to construct its first nuclear power station in Bushehr on the Persian Gulf coast. The Bushehr project is more than three years behind schedule and its first nuclear reactor is now due to come on line by year's end. A second reactor is also under construction and due on line by 2010.
The construction of the Iranian power station has been the main source of export income for the Russian nuclear establishment for over a decade, and has a potential net worth of close to $6 billion to Moscow.
Satellite photos made available to Newsmax show that elements of the Chinese navy have been on site to assist Iran in the coastal defense of the controversial nuclear power station.
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