United States ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council started voting Thursday evening on a U.S. resolution that would indefinitely extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, a measure that faces strong opposition from Russia and China and is almost certain to be defeated.

The results of the email voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to be announced on Friday evening, and it is likely the resolution will not get the minimum nine “yes” votes in the 15-member Security Council for Russia and China to use their vetoes.

The Trump administration called for the vote hours after U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft urged European nations that support the nuclear deal with Iran to put in writing their ideas to extend the expiring arms embargo on the Islamic Republic, indicating that the the United States may be willing to compromise on its demand for an indefinite extension.

Craft said in an interview with The Associated Press that the United States was “keeping the space open” for talks with the United Kingdom, France and Germany, as well as Russia and China. The five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council still support the 2015 agreement with Iran aimed at preventing the country from acquiring nuclear weapons, which U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018.

Asked about reports the Europeans have talked about a six-month extension of the arms embargo, Craft replied: “They mentioned six months. They mentioned a one-year (extension). They mentioned other elements. They’ve mentioned a code of conduct, and I haven’t seen anything in writing.”

Craft did not appear to know at the time of Thursday’s AP interview that the U.S. would be calling for the vote so soon. Her comments indicate that the U.S. might be hoping for the three European nations known as the E3 — the UK, France and Germany — to come up with their own resolution with a shorter extension of the arms embargo after Friday’s results are announced.

The Trump administration has said repeatedly it will not allow the arms embargo provision in the Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal to expire as required on Oct. 18 — a commitment reiterated by Craft.

The U.S. initially circulated a resolution to the 15-member council to indefinitely extend the arms embargo which was seven pages long and had 35 paragraphs. This week, following discussions with council members who voiced objections to a number of provisions, it circulated a revised draft that stripped the resolution to just four paragraphs calling for an indefinite extension.

The foreign ministers of Russia and China, in separate letters to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council last month, were sharply critical of the U.S. effort to indefinitely extend the arms embargo. They gave every indication they would veto any such resolution if necessary.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the Trump administration of waging a politically motivated campaign against Iran and called for “universal condemnation” of the U.S. attempt to impose a permanent arms embargo on the Islamic Republic. He said Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement and now has no legal right to try to use the U.N. resolution endorsing the deal to indefinitely continue the embargo.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the arms embargo should be lifted Oct. 18. He also argued that since the U.S. is no longer a party to the nuclear deal it “has no right to demand the Security Council to activate the rapid reinstatement of sanctions” through the “snap back” provision.

Diplomats from several countries that remain committed to the nuclear deal have expressed serious concern that extending the arms embargo would lead to Iran’s exit from the agreement, and its speeded-up pursuit of nuclear weapons.

If the resolution is defeated, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested the U.S. would invoke the “snap back” mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal that would restore all U.N. sanctions on Iran. “Snap back” was envisioned in the event Iran was proven to be in violation of the accord, under which it received billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

“Obviously we will use the most important tool, whatever it is, whether it’s `snap back’, whether it is hopefully just going into the council and extending this renewal, we will not take no for an answer,” Craft said.

She said the U.S. has circulated to council members a six-page memo from U.S. State Department legal advisers outlining why the United States remains part of the 2015 Security Council resolution and still has the right to use the `snap back’ provision.

Craft said council members face a choice between “sponsoring terrorism” or promoting international peace and security.

“We have a moral responsibility to make certain that this murderous regime does not have access any longer to exporting and to arming its proxies,” Craft said.

She said before the U.S. called for the vote that the “best option” for the the UK, France and Germany would be to engage on the U.S. draft resolution, put something in writing, and resolve differences in the Security Council.

“And if they think for one second that `snap back’ is hollow they need to think twice,” Craft said.