The United States said Tuesday it is seeking a binding U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Iran halt uranium enrichment. But it is not, at least in its initial push in the United Nations, asking for sanctions.
Officials here say the Bush administration wants a binding Security Council resolution under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter requiring Iran to heed earlier U.N. calls to end enrichment activity and return to nuclear talks.
However, it is putting off the idea of U.N. sanctions until a later resolution, should one prove necessary because of Iranian intransigence.
The strategy to incrementally increase pressure on Tehran was outlined by the State Department as senior diplomats from the United States, the other four veto-wielding members of the Security Council, and Germany, met in Paris on the nuclear issue.
Those talks are a prelude to a ministerial level meeting of the same countries next week in New York.
State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said a Chapter Seven resolution, without sanctions, would be another step along a "diplomatic pathway" to persuade Iran to abandon what the United States says is a quest for nuclear weapons.
"Our approach has been to build consensus, to gradually increase the diplomatic pressure on Iran to give them every chance, every opportunity, to come back into line with mainstream behavior in the international community with regard to this question of their nuclear program. They have thus far chosen not to do so."
Permanent Security Council members Russia and China have said they oppose sanctions and have yet to endorse the idea of a Chapter Seven resolution.
But Spokesman McCormack said Moscow and Beijing share the view of the United States and European allies that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, and that the differences are only tactical ones.
The Bush administration has not foreclosed the use of force in preventing Iran from having a weapons capability, but insists its focus is on diplomacy.
In widely quoted remarks Tuesday, a commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps said Israel would be Iran's first retaliatory target in the event of a U.S. attack.
Asked about the comment, McCormack said it is another in a series of threatening, hateful statements about Israel that only increase apprehension about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.
"What these statements do, the net effect, is really to give pause to the international community and cause people to think: do you really want have this Iranian regime in possession of a nuclear weapon? I think the answer to that is no. And these statements put in high relief exactly why you don't want that to happen."
The spokesman said the threat against Israel, and a claim by Iran Tuesday of a major uranium discovery, amounted to "chaff" being thrown in the air by Iran to try to divert attention from its diplomatic predicament.