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Why Tehran courts UN members from Brazil to Bosnia on Iran nuclear issue

Facing a US-led push for fresh Iran nuclear sanctions within weeks, Tehran has launched a diplomatic counteroffensive aimed at smaller UN players who will vote on the issue. Brazilian leaders are in Tehran today.

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Iran has pushed its diplomacy into overdrive as it tries to woo members of the United Nations Security Council away from US-led efforts to impose new sanctions within weeks.

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From Brazil to Uganda, Bosnia to China, top Iranian officials are on a charm offensive unlike any in recent memory.

Though Iran may not be able to block a new sanctions vote – heavyweight Russia is expected to back further measures, and American officials are convinced that China won’t block them – Iran’s arguments have have raised the question for several nations of nuclear technology and who can have it.

At the same time, Iran is bidding to resurrect talks on a UN-backed nuclear fuel swap deal on offer last October but since stalled.

“The Iranians have to some extent succeeded in recasting the terms of the debate,” says Shannon Kile, a nonproliferation specialist at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden.

“It’s not so much about the spread of nuclear weapons, but more about ... who has the right to control access to advanced nuclear technology,” says Mr. Kile. He says Iran is finding willing listeners because rather than its frequent rhetoric about Israel and Palestine it's focusing on nuclear power as a symbol of modernity. “They’ve actually got a lot of traction on that, especially from countries like Brazil and even Egypt, which has a lot of suspicions about Iran otherwise.”

Tehran is this week hosting Foreign Minister Celso Amorim of Brazil – a key non-permanent UNSC member that supports Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy program.

Iran lobbies all Security Council members – except US

During a nuclear conference hosted by Tehran 10 days ago, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki declared that Iran would directly lobby all 15 members of the Security Council – except the US, an arch-foe.