UNITED NATIONS, Mar. 9th (AFP) - Israel's UN ambassador on Tuesday said prospects for crippling UN sanctions against Iran were "grim" because Russia and China want to use diplomacy to convince Iran to scale back its nuclear ambitions.
"The chances now seem grim regarding sanctions that will be crippling," Ambassador Gabriela Shalev told reporters here.
She said Russia and China, two veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, "are still looking to the diplomatic track" and appear reluctant to back a new round of tough sanctions proposed by Washington and its Western allies.
"The Chinese and the Russians still hope that diplomacy will work. They do not want to inflict any harm on the Iranian people," she added.
Shalev said that if the 15-member council was unable to agree on crippling sanctions, then Israel "will look to the countries themselves" to slap additional bilateral sanctions.
On Monday, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom called on the Security Council to impose "crippling" sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance.
"The time has come to impose crippling sanctions on the Iranians and I asked to put the 300 leaders of the Revolutionary Guards that are controlling Iran these days on the (UN sanctions) blacklist," he told reporters after meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Israel considers Iran its biggest security threat because of comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map and questioning the Holocaust.
Israel is widely reported to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, but it refuses to confirm or deny this, instead pursuing a policy of "nuclear ambiguity."
The UN Security Council has already slapped three rounds of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment which Israel and the West view as a cover to build nuclear weapons.
Tehran denies the charge, saying the program is for peaceful nuclear energy.
The United States, Britain, France and Germany have proposed a fourth set of financial sanctions targeting Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, but China has questioned the usefulness of sanctions at this time.
Russia has signaled that it might be willing to back sanctions provided they only target Iran's nuclear proliferation activities.