Feb 3 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.
U.S. AND FRENCH PROPOSALS
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.
REVOLUTIONARY GUARD CORPS
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)