Again this week, the U.N. Security Council will focus on how to react to the International Atomic Energy Agency's report of Iran's failure to meet demands that it halt uranium enrichment and make clear that its nuclear program is not geared toward possibly creating an atomic bomb. But according to a knowledgeable western diplomat here, ongoing efforts to reach a successful agreement are not likely to bear fruit until later in the week, at the earliest. And, so far, diplomats have not given up on securing a so-called presidential statement, which requires consensus among all 15 members. (If unanimity becomes impossible, however, the option remains of seeking a "resolution," which would be voted upon and force nations to take a public stand, including casting a veto.)
Discussions and negotiations -- aimed mainly at getting Russia and China's approval of a draft statement -- are in high gear both in New York and among senior officials in the respective capitals of the five permanent veto-wielding Security Council members -- namely, Beijing, London, Moscow, Paris and Washington. Germany is also supporting the allied proposal and diplomats are confident that the 10 non-permanent council members, who sit on the council for two-year terms, will likely back a statement.
Several sticking points still divide the major powers. Russia is insisting that a council statement call for the IAEA's chief, Mohammed Elbaradei, to report back on Iran's compliance with demands at the next regularly-scheduled IAEA board of governors meeting in June and not in two weeks as the U.S., U.K. and France initially proposed.
Moscow also wants a council statement to be short (and not repeat the demands on Iran laid out in various IAEA resolutions) and not to refer to Iran's activities as being a possible threat to international peace and security, for fear the statement could become a "stepping stone" to council enforcement, including sanctions or more.
Late last week, the "unofficial" odds for a presidential statement, according to political insiders here, had dropped to 50-50. This week, western diplomats seem cautiously optimistic. A new round of talks among P5 foreign ministers and Germany, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is scheduled for this Thursday in Berlin.