Key European nations put finishing touches on a proposal meant to enlist the support of Russia and China for possible UN Security Council sanctions against Iran should Tehran refuse to abandon uranium enrichment, diplomats said.
The compromise -- which would drop the automatic threat of military action if Iran remains defiant -- is part of a proposed basket of incentives meant to entice Iran to give up enrichment, a possible pathway to nuclear arms. It also spells out the penalties if it does not.
France, Britain and Germany discussed the final form of the package on Tuesday ahead of submission for hoped-for approval yesterday at a formal meeting of the five permanent Security Council members and Germany.
If accepted, the compromise would resolve wrangling within the Security Council since it became actively involved in March, two months after Iran's file was referred to it by the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Russia and China have opposed calls by the US, Britain and France for a resolution threatening sanctions and enforceable by military action.
The compromise proposal is meant to break that deadlock, said the diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing the package.
If Iran remains defiant, the proposal calls for a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions under Chapter VII, Article 41 of the UN Charter. But it avoids any reference to Article 42 -- which is the trigger for possible military action to enforce any such resolution.
And in an additional reassurance to Moscow and Beijing, it specifically calls for new consultations among the five permanent Security Council members on any further steps against Iran. That is meant to dispel past complaints by the Russians and Chinese that once the screws on Iran are tightened, it would automatically start a process leading to military involvement.
The language represents compromise by the US, Britain and France, which for weeks had called for a full Chapter VII resolution automatically carrying the threat of military action if ignored by Iran.
Still, it was unclear whether the changes would be enough to satisfy Russia and China at the six-nation meeting yesterday because any such resolution would still declare Iran a threat to international peace -- something also opposed by both Moscow and Beijing. Russia and China also have until recently spoken out against possible sanctions on Tehran, their economic and strategic partner.
On the eve of the meeting, Russian news agencies cited Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as again calling for political and diplomatic means to solve the Iranian nuclear impasse.