UN: Ahmadinejad can speak before nations' sanctions vote
Security Council president says there are no objections to request; no date set for sanctions vote.
The president of the UN Security Council said Friday he had received no objections to a request from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak right before members vote on a resolution that would impose new sanctions on Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment
South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the council president for March, said he had sent the request from Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif to the 14 other council nations on Thursday and said, "we haven't received one objection at all, so ... I'm assuming it's going to happen."
"The difficulty is we don't know when that would be," he said.
Kumalo said no date has been set for a vote because the 10 non-permanent council members, who are elected for two-year terms, only received the draft resolution on Thursday after the five permanent members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - and Germany agreed on the text.
The agreement by the six world powers on the modest sanctions package culminated more than two weeks of negotiations, but it also engendered bruised feelings among the non-permanent members who were left out of the debate.
"We haven't even discussed the resolution," Kumalo said. "How can we go to a vote? We were told - we were assured that we would not be a rubber stamp. If it's a question of six people write the resolution and the rest of us raise our hand to vote, then maybe they don't even need the rest of us."
Kumalo told reporters the permanent members had assured the non-permanent members that they would be given enough time to consult their governments on the draft, get instructions and then start consultations in the council.
On Thursday, Kumalo said council experts would meet Tuesday to go over the draft and the full council would meet to discuss the resolution on Wednesday afternoon.
But on Friday, Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who introduced the draft resolution, asked if the full council could hold discussions on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.
"That created a problem," Kumalo said, and the council decided to stick to Wednesday - but may revisit this on Monday again.
Ahmadinejad's request to speak to the UN's most powerful body took some members by surprise because he has said the Security Council has no legitimacy and vowed to ignore any sanctions.
Kumalo said the letter from the Iranian ambassador made clear that Ahmadinejad wanted to speak on the day of the vote - but before the vote is taken.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday that the United States has approved a U.S. visa for Ahmadinejad previously and will do so again, consistent with its obligations as host country for the United Nations.
Iran asked for visas for 38 people to accompany Ahmadinejad, including Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, a council diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because those details have not been made public.
While there may be grumbling among the 10 non-permanent members, Thursday's agreement by the five veto-wielding council nations means the resolution is likely to get unanimous approval.
In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
Iran responded by expanding its enrichment program - and Ahmadinejad remains defiant. The proposed new sanctions would ban Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations involved in the country's nuclear and missile programs - about a third linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.
The package also calls for voluntary restrictions on travel by the individuals subject to sanctions and on new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.