Iran and U.N. reform promise to be the most divisive issues members will face this week and in the weeks ahead. How to deal with the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region and a future U.N. role there is also likely to occupy a lot of diplomatic energy.
Iran's nuclear program
Tehran's rejection last Friday of the Security Council's March 29 statement calling for Iran to halt its uranium enrichment efforts has returned the issue to the Security Council and diplomatic efforts have moved into high gear. However, much of the maneuvering and negotiations are likely to take place in private here in New York as well as in capitals around the globe. The five veto-wielding Security Council members -- the US, Britain, France, Russia and China -- are expected to take the lead in coming up with a next step toward Iran. On Tuesday, May 2, for example, senior officials representing the P5 plus Germany are scheduled to meet in Paris for a face-to-face meeting on the issue. Following that, the council is likely to formally take up the issue for the first time, according to western officials.
The U.S., Britain and France have indicated they plan to introduce a Chapter 7 draft resolution this week. The resolution would make the council's demand on Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities and answer important questions about Tehran's nuclear program legally binding on Iran, with a possible new deadline for compliance. But they are not expected to press for imposing sanctions, even limited sanctions, at this time. China and Russia, however, have still been signaling that they do not want strong council action and how far they are willing to go is not yet clear. Over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged that the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna play the leading role in the dispute with Iran instead of the Security Council. Thus, given the apparent differences among the big powers, diplomats forecast difficult and perhaps lengthy negotiations before a possible compromise can be struck. Meanwhile, the U.S. and its allies have not ruled out pushing ahead with possible economic or other measures in the future outside the Security Council if Russia and China block council action.
A U.N. Security Council-backed April 30 deadline for concluding a peace agreement between Sudan's government and rebel leaders has just passed and what happens in the days ahead will no doubt have an impact on further Security Council efforts regarding Darfur. This includes prospects for a new robust U.N. force to take over operations in the fall from an African Union operation on the ground. Khartoum has said it wants a peace agreement before it considers approval for such a move.
Last Friday, a powerful bloc of developing countries blocked management reform proposals in a key U.N. budget committee that would have given the secretary general more authority in running the organization. The reforms -- favored by major donor countries who largely foot the U.N. bill -- would have the impact of taking away some power from the U.N. General Assembly, where developing nations command the numerical majority. The vote came after days of bitter debate between rich nations and developing countries, including China. This week, the budget committee's resolution could be put to the full General Assembly for a possible vote. The sharp divisions over management reform between those who largely fund the U.N. and the majority of its members have raised concerns about a looming financial crisis if some major donors like the U.S. and Japan decide to hold back their dues in June. At that time, members are expected to assess how much progress has been made toward reforming U.N. management, which was criticized during the U.N. oil-for-food investigation. The U.S. contributes 22 percent of the regular U.N. budget: Japan provides nearly 2 percent. In total, wealthy countries provide more than 80 percent of the budget.