UN Security Council approves tougher sanctions against Iran
Third round of sanctions, approved in 14-0 vote, aimed at pressuring Iran to halt uranium enrichment.
UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Security Council approved a third round of sanctions against Iran on Monday with near unanimous support, sending a strong signal to Tehran that its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment is unacceptable and becoming increasingly costly.
The vote was 14-0 with one abstention from Indonesia.
Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammed Khazee told the council just before the vote that the government would not comply with the unlawful action against its peaceful nuclear program.
"Iran cannot and will not accept a requirement which is legally defective and politically coercive," Khazee said. "History tells us that no amount of pressure, intimidation and threat will be able to coerce our nation to give up its basic and legal rights."
After the resolution was approved, Iran dismissed the current and previous sanctions resolutions as violations of international law and said they only harmed the 15-nation Security Council's credibility.
"The credibility of the Security Council... is readily downgraded to a mere tool of the national foreign policy of just a few countries," Iran's UN ambassador, Mohammed Khazaee, told the council.
In a statement on behalf of the five permanent Security Council members - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France - as well as Germany, British Ambassador John Sawers told the council the group wanted European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to meet Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to try to reopen negotiations and resolve the nuclear impasse.
Without elaborating, Sawers said the six powers were willing to beef up the incentives offer Solana delivered to Tehran in 2006 if Iran suspended enrichment.
"We reconfirm the proposals we presented to Iran in June 2006 and are prepared to further develop them," he said. "Our proposals will offer substantial opportunities for political, security and economic benefits to Iran and to the region."
Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya urged Iran to heed the demands of the United Nations. "We call upon Iran to fully comply with IAEA and Security Council resolutions as soon as possible," Wang told the council.
The new sanctions, for the first time, ban trade with Iran in goods that have both civilian and military uses. It also authorizes inspections of shipments to and from Iran by sea and air that are suspected of carrying banned items.
The resolution introduces financial monitoring of two banks with suspected links to proliferation activities, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. It calls on all countries to exercise vigilance in entering into new trade commitments with Iran, including granting export credits, guarantees or insurance.
The resolution also orders countries to freeze the assets of 12 additional companies and 13 individuals with links to Iran's nuclear or ballistic missile programs - and require countries to exercise vigilance and report the travel or transit of those Iranians. It imposes a travel ban on five individuals linked to Iran's nuclear effort.
Most of the new individuals subject to sanctions are technical figures but one, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Reza Naqdi, is a prominent figure in the elite Revolutionary Guard military corps and is close to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The resolution identifies him as a former deputy chief of the Armed Forces General Staff for Logistics and Industrial Research and as head of the State Anti-Smuggling Headquarters engaged in efforts to get around previous U.N. sanctions.
Britain and France, who co-sponsored the resolution, put off the vote from Saturday until Monday to try to get four non-permanent council members who raised a variety of concerns on board - Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam.
In the final vote, Libya, South Africa and Vietnam voted yes but Indonesia abstained. Diplomats credited French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited South Africa last week, for helping to sway the Libyans and South Africans.
Indonesia's UN Ambassador Marty Natalegawa told the council that his nation had confidence in the International Atomic Energy Agency's ability to handle the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, rather than the security council intervening with further sanctions.
"We must avoid more of the same," he said just before the vote. "Iran is cooperating with the IAEA. At this juncture, more sanctions are not the best cause."
One concern raised by the four countries is the latest IAEA report on February 22 that said suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest. The Libyan and Indonesian envoys had stressed that this indicated Iranian cooperation, and questioned the need for additional sanctions.
The resolution adopted Monday does welcome Iran's agreement with the IAEA to resolve all outstanding issues about its past nuclear program and progress in this regard.
But the Americans and their European allies stressed that the report from the UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran has continued to enrich uranium, in defiance of Security Council resolutions, and demanded that Tehran suspend its uranium centrifuge program.
The IAEA also reported that Iran rejected new documents that link Tehran to missile and explosives experiments and other work connected to a possible nuclear weapons program. Iran called the information false and irrelevant, the IAEA said.
Last week, Iran's Khazee accused an Iranian opposition group listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union of feeding fabricated evidence to Washington. One council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue disputed his claim, saying the information came from an Iranian defector.
The council meeting to vote on the resolution was delayed for nearly two hours because of a dispute over plans by Britain, France and Germany to present a resolution before the IAEA board, which opened a meeting in Vienna on Monday.
Diplomats said that Russia learned about the planned resolution just before the vote on the Security Council resolution, and was threatening to hold it up because it was not informed of the European plans.
Grigory Berdennikov, the chief Russian delegate to the IAEA, told the AP in Vienna that we are not happy about developments here in Vienna - we were not informed.
A European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Russians asked that no resolution be presented in Vienna as a condition for voting on the sanctions resolution in New York. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.
The resolution drafted by the Europeans would have praised progress made in the IAEA investigation of Iran's nuclear past, but noted that the investigation was incomplete because Iran had refused to answer questions about its alleged weapons experiments. It also said the 35-member IAEA board - not the agency's leaders - had the final authority to declare the investigation into Iran's past nuclear programs closed.
Iran insists its enrichment activities are intended only for peaceful civilian purposes, but the U.S., the EU and others suspect its real aim is to produce atomic weapons.
Iran also rejected the two previous Security Council resolutions as illegal, and Khazee reiterated that Iran will never give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.
The council first imposed limited sanctions in December 2006, ordering all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also ordered countries to freeze the assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
Iran responded by expanding its enrichment program, so the council imposed new sanctions in March 2007, this time banning Iranian arms exports.
It also ordered countries to freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs - about a third linked to the Revolutionary Guard. It asked countries to restrict travel by the individuals subject to sanctions, as well as arms sales to Iran and new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.