Ahmadinejad cancels U.N. Security Council visit

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has canceled a planned visit to the United Nations, and Tehran’s U.N. ambassador, Javad Zarif, on Friday blamed a delay in U.S. visas being issued to the crew of his airplane.

Ahmadinejad wanted to speak to the U.N. Security Council before a vote, scheduled for Saturday, on sanctions against Iran.

Iran, which contends the proposed sanctions are politically motivated, says it will still try to get high-level representation to the U.N. — most likely the foreign minister.

The planned vote comes after the U.N.’s atomic energy watchdog agency said last month it could not verify that Iran’s uranium enrichment program was strictly for peaceful purposes, as Iran has said. Western nations, including the United States, contend Iran is using the program to develop nuclear weapons.

The five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany agreed on a resolution to expand sanctions on Iran and presented it to the council last week, but several nations said they wanted to amend it.

Alejandro Wolfe, the acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Thursday that some amendments were agreed to, but he offered no details about those.

“We embraced amendments that were consistent with the philosophy of this resolution … and those that would enhance its clarity and enhance its value,” he said.

Also Thursday, Dumisani Kumalo, the U.N. ambassador from South Africa, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, said he felt steamrollered into a Saturday vote on the resolution.

“I feel like I was misled,” he said, adding that he had been led to believe that he would have more time to consider the resolution.

But French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere rebutted Kumalo’s comments, saying discussions have gone on for some time.

“And we have the whole day tomorrow to discuss it,” he said.
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/03/23/iran.nuclear/