Divided over Iran Powers Agree on 'Watered Down' New Sanctions

The permanent members of the Security Council and Germany have agreed on a new draft resolution for sanctions against Iran. But details are scarce, leading to speculation that the draft does not contain the tough measures that the US wanted.

When the US National Intelligence Estimate asserted in December that Iran had mothballed its nuclear weapons program , many observers warned the news would make it harder for the US government to persuade the international community to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.

That analysis appeared to be confirmed Tuesday at the meeting of the permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, UK, China, Russia and France -- and Germany in Berlin. Although the six powers agreed on the outlines for a new sanctions resolution against Iran, diplomats said the draft did not contain the tough economic measures that the US had been pushing for, such as a ban on business with Iranian state banks.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after the meeting that the new draft would be submitted to the Security Council for discussion within the next few weeks. "We are united in the view that a nuclear armed Iran would have dramatic consequences for the Middle East and further afield," said Steinmeier, who was the only one of the six foreign ministers to speak. The Security Council has already imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran.

Russia and China, who both have significant business interests in Iran, have increased their opposition to tough sanctions since the US intelligence report was published in December. There was speculation Tuesday that the new draft resolution may have been watered down for a show of unity, seeing as the draft was not released and the participants refused to discuss details. The US, however, presented the agreement as a success, saying the new resolution boosts existing sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans on Iranian officials.

The meeting did have at least one more immediate result, however: Germany and China have officially resolved their differences. The two countries had fallen out over a visit last September by the Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibet, to the Chancellery in Berlin where he was received by Angela Merkel. China sees the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist.

Steinmeier, who met Tuesday with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi ahead of the six powers' meeting, told reporters that relations had normalized. Yang, too, said China wanted to look to the future and invited Steinmeier to visit China in May. The warming of relations comes after an intensive secret diplomatic initiative  on the part of Steinmeier.


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