The UN Security Council put the finishing touches Friday to a draft resolution imposing a third set of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance with a vote rescheduled to Monday.
"The Iran resolution will be put to a vote in the Security Council on Monday at 11am (1600 GMT)," said a Western diplomat close to the council deliberations.
Another diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, spoke of progress in last-minute haggling over the text with countries having reservations about the sanctions.
He said the delay in the vote, which had been expected Saturday, was so sponsors "can get as broad support as possible".
The draft puts Tehran on notice that it must comply with earlier Security Council demands to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.
The West fears the knowhow gained from such activities could give Iran the capability to build nuclear weponas.
But the Islamic republic insists its nuclear program is peaceful and geared only toward generating electricity.
Britain and France, co-sponsors of the draft along with Germany, Friday engaged in last-minute bargaining to try to win over Vietnam and South Africa, two of four countries - along with Indonesia and Libya - which see fresh sanctions as counter-productive.
Adoption of the text is a foregone conclusion as it has already been agreed by the five veto-wielding members of the council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.
And the sponsors have enough support among the 10 non-permanent members to ensure passage, which requires nine votes and no veto.
In Washington, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Friday the vote would take place "some time relatively soon".
Asked about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's flat refusal to freeze uranium enrichment and reprocessing, Johndroe called the remarks "unfortunate".
"It's unfortunate that he continues to make these comments. He just further isolates Iran and the Iranian people and that's not our goal at all," said the US spokesman.
Thursday, Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers said the co-sponsors were prepared "to go the extra mile... to get as much support as possible" for the draft.
But Indonesia, Libya, South Africa and Vietnam worry that new sanctions might prompt Iran to break off its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
They note that a recent IAEA report spoke of progress in Iran's efforts to come clean on past nuclear activities.
Indonesia's UN Ambassador Marty Natalegawa hinted Thursday that his country might abstain during the vote. Libya might do the same, some diplomats said.
A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Vietnam on Thursday proposed some amendments to the draft that would reinforce the role of the IAEA in the Iranian nuclear dossier and would make clear that the proposed sanctions would not affect bilateral ties with Tehran.
The sponsors were also pinning their hopes on French President Nicolas Sarkozy's current visit to South Africa to get Pretoria on board.
Sarkozy urged his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki in Cape Town Thursday to support the sanctions draft, saying the proposed steps were not aggressive were "necessary... to avoid the worst".
China said Thursday that the new sanctions should not undermine trade. A Chinese firm was reportedly preparing to sign a $16 billion energy deal with Tehran.
The latest sanctions are marginally tougher than those imposed in two previous council resolutions adopted in December 2006 and March 2007.
The current draft includes an outright ban on travel by officials involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programmes, and inspections of shipments to and from Iran if there are suspicions of prohibited goods.
It also calls "upon states to exercise vigilance in entering into new commitments for public-provided financial support for trade with Iran, including the granting of export credits, guarantees or insurance to their nationals involved in such trade".
Attached to the draft is an annex listing additional names of Iranian officials and entities subject to travel and financial sanctions.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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