RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
All this week, Iran and its nuclear program have dominated the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told the assembly that the issue was, quote, "closed" and that Iran will disregard the Security Council whatever it decides.
The U.S. and its allies meet tomorrow to discuss tougher sanctions against Iran and could decide to go it alone if the U.N won't agree to take some action.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is the United States' representative at the U.N. And he joins us now.
Ambassador ZALMAY KHALILZAD (United States Ambassador to the United Nations): Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Let's start with Iran's nuclear program. Is the U.N. Security Council going to act and pass stronger sanctions?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, we're going to be discussing, as you said, at the ministerial level with other permanent members of the Security Council in Germany, this issue tomorrow. And it is our expectation that in the coming weeks, action will be transferred from the Capitals, and from the ministers - to the Security Council, and that the decision will be made to impose additional sanctions on Iran to incentivize it to stop or suspend its enrichment program.
MONTAGNE: And Russia and China, who have been reluctant to do something very much stronger, you think they'll agree to this?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, we'll have to see. It is clear that Iran is in violation of two U.N. Security Council resolutions and calling on it to suspend its enrichment program, so we need to take additional measures to incentivize it to cooperate.
MONTAGNE: Now, the U.S. and France are in the midst of trying to organize other countries in a kind of sanctions of the willing. Could it turn out to be that the U.S. simply bypasses the U.N.?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, our preference clearly is to have a U.N. Security Council decision to increase sanctions, but at the same time, of course, unilateral or multilateral sanctions outside the Security Council can complement decisions in the Security Council or can be an alternative to it. But at this point, we're moving on both fronts - looking at unilateral and multilateral sanctions outside and inside the United Nations Security Council.
MONTAGNE: The Iran's president said recently that he'd prefer to work with the U.N.'s own nuclear watchdog agency. Do you think that the International Atomic Energy Agency finds that a welcome endorsement?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, IAEA has its technical responsibilities with regard to questions that Iran has not answered to - with regard to its past activities. And implementation of steps to clear the past record and to cooperate with regard to inspections in the future, would be positive. But that is not a substitute to the issue of suspension of enrichment activity, which is Security Council have called for.
MONTAGNE: Right, right. But Mohamed El-Baradei, who heads up that agency, has worked out what you might call a side deal with Iran, you know, calling for a schedule for the two sides to talk and resolve its questions. Is that an obstacle to the U.N. itself containing Iran's nuclear program?
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Well, it depends. If that is not used - that agreement is not used by Iran to prevent cooperation by the international community to increase the pressure on it to suspend enrichment, then that will be fine. But if that becomes a reason for avoiding additional action on the suspension front, then this agreement would not be positive.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
Ambassador KHALILZAD: Oh, it's good to be with you.
MONTAGNE: Zalmay Khalilzad is the United States' representative at the United Nations.
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