France sees majority backing for Iran sanctions
France expects a majority of UN Security Council members to vote for new nuclear sanctions against Iran which would stop Russia selling ground-to-air missiles to the Islamic republic, diplomats said Thursday.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said only three of the 15 members of the Security Council were holding out.
Diplomats named the three as Brazil and Turkey, which on Monday signed a uranium enrichment deal with Iran, and Lebanon, whose government includes pro-Iranian politicians.
Turkey and Brazil have called on UN Security Council members to give negotiations with Iran a chance and "avoid measures that are detrimental to a peaceful solution of this matter."
"I think that the text will be approved. I can't be certain, nobody can be certain," Kouchner told a small group of reporters.
If none of the council's five permanent members veto the text then a majority of the 15-strong committee is all that is needed for the fourth round of sanctions on Iran, which the West accuses of seeking nuclear weapons.
The UN resolution would expand an existing arms embargo, measures against Iran's banking sector and ban it from mining uranium and developing ballistic missiles overseas, according to a US official in New York.
Russia is one of the veto-wielding permanent members and western diplomats said the sanctions would include stopping sales of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran.
The United States and Israel worry the missile systems could be used to protect against possible future air strikes against Iran's nuclear sites.
The missile sale has already been agreed but Russia's state arms exporter said it would comply with any UN order.
"Any sanctions introduced by the UN are obligatory for arms exporting countries," Rosoboronexport spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko told AFP. "Russia is no exception. Russia always complies with the sanctions."
But Iran's first nuclear plant, which Russia is building in Bushehr, should go online by August regardless of any new sanctions, a top Russian atomic official said.
"We are counting on the nuclear power station launching in August, if everything goes as planned," Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's federal atomic energy agency, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
"The resolution now being prepared on Iran will not in any way affect this."
Russia, which has long enjoyed close ties with Iran, has backed the US-proposed draft resolution, exasperated by Iran's intransigence and despite a surprise nuclear deal agreed between Iran, Brazil and Turkey this week.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - are discussing appendices to the sanctions text that will go before the full body, diplomats said.
According to a copy of the draft, seen by AFP, the sanctions would ban the sale of tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, large calibre artillery, war planes, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile defence systems to Iran.
© 2010 AFP