Feb 3 (Reuters) - The United States, Britain, France and Germany are exchanging ideas on a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt its nuclear enrichment program as demanded by the Security Council.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that his country is ready to send its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment into fuel to produce medical isotopes, an offer Tehran had earlier annoyed Russia and the Western powers by rejecting.
Diplomats said that even if Tehran agrees to the deal, the four Western powers will press ahead with plans to put together a sanctions proposal that has the backing of Russia and China.
Following are details of the kinds of new or expanded sanctions Iran might face based on information provided to Reuters by Western diplomats who declined to be identified.
France and the United States have both prepared informal papers outlining the kinds of punitive measures against Iran the 15-nation Security Council could approve. Senior U.S. and French officials are planning to discuss these ideas with their British and German colleagues by telephone later this week.
Once the four have identified the outlines of a possible sanctions proposal, it will be put to Russia and China, which have been reluctant to punish Tehran in the past and worked hard to dilute proposed measures before they were voted on.
The full six are also planning a telephone call later this week, though China has yet to confirm its participation.
Once the five permanent Security Council members and Germany -- often referred to as the “P5+1” -- agree on elements for a sanctions resolution, they can submit it to the full council and prepare a draft resolution to be voted on.
The Western powers would like to get a sanctions resolution adopted by the end of March.
Among the possible targets are Iran’s central bank, which Western diplomats say has been a key player in financing Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs and in skirting previously approved U.N. sanctions.
One diplomat said that they were considering the idea of blacklisting Iran’s five biggest banks. Two previous sanctions resolutions passed in March 2007 and March 2008 blacklisted Iran’s Bank Sepah and urged countries to “exercise vigilance” over the activities of all Iranian financial institutions, above all Bank Melli and Bank Saderat.
Diplomats said it was unclear how extensive the sanctions against the central bank would be. However, they said it could hurt the country’s foreign trade and make it difficult for the Iranian government to raise money abroad with debt issues.
One idea under consideration is adding members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and companies controlled by it to a list of individuals and firms facing travel bans and asset freezes.
Western powers see the IRGC as a key player in Iran’s nuclear program, which they fear is aimed at producing bombs. Tehran says it only wants to generate electricity.
They could blacklist Iranian shipping companies. Two firms -- Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines -- were mentioned in the March 2008 sanctions resolution.
The idea of expanding the existing U.N. ban on arms exports from Iran to include a ban on arms imports is being discussed.
The French sanctions paper includes a general call for targeting Iran’s energy sector. Although the United States, like Britain, supports the idea of targeting Iran’s oil and gas industries, the U.S. paper does not call for it.
The reason for leaving it out, diplomats say, is that Washington is concerned that including it now could unnecessarily delay the process of negotiating a sanctions package that is acceptable to Russia and China.
One diplomat said restrictions on the import into Iran of refined oil products like gasoline was also “being discussed.”
Diplomats say that Russia and China, which like the United States, Britain and France hold vetoes on the Security Council, would oppose sanctions against Iran’s energy sector. (Compiled by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Eric Beech)