Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waving to the media in Tehran
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waving to the media in Tehran on May 18, 2010. Photo by AP
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program was a "positive" step, but expressed hope that it would lead countries to take broader economic and diplomatic measures, including sanctions on the Iranian energy sector.

Israel and the United States on Wednesday hailed a United Nations vote to impose a fourth round of sanctions on a defiant Iran, which immediately vowed to continue with its nuclear program.

"The UN Security Council resolution passed today, led by the determination of President Obama, is a positive step," Netanyahu said. "The resolution made clear to Iran that the world's leading powers oppose its nuclear program."

"The biggest danger to peace is that the most dangerous regimes in the world will use the most dangerous weapons of all. The international community needs to continue to keep the prevention of this threat at the top its agenda."

Netanyahu's words echoed an earlier statement by Israel's Foreign Ministry that hailed UN Security Council resolution 1929 as an "important step."

"It is of great importance to implement the decision fully and immediately," the Foreign Ministry statement said.

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, said the sanctions "can
serve as a viable platform for launching very far-reaching sanctions by the United States or like-minded nations against Iran."

Those sanctions could be aimed at Iran's ability to import gasoline, he said.

"They have a lot of oil, but not a lot of refined oil or the ability to export oil abroad," Oren said.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the new sanctions send an "unmistakable message" that the international community will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Speaking shortly after the Security Council voted to impose some of the toughest sanctions on Iran so far, Obama faulted the Islamic state's leaders for failing to seriously address concerns about the country's nuclear activities.

"These are the most comprehensive sanctions that the Iranian government has faced," Obama said.

Iran on Wednesday rejected the resolution over its nuclear activities, vowing to continue enriching urananuim.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed as "valueless" the resolution, which passed by 12 votes to two with one abstention, saying it should be thrown out.

"This resolution is not worth a penny for Iran and I sent a message to each one of them (UN Security Council members) that your resolution is like a used handkerchief which should go into a garbage can," the Iran Student News agency quoted him as saying.

"They [world powers] will not be able to harm us," added Ahmadinejad, who is currently on a visit in Tajikistan.

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the UN Security Council vote to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran a "wrong move". 

"It was not a constructive step...to resolve the nuclear issue. It will make the situation more complicated," Mehmanparast said.

Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, said after the vote that Iran would not halt its nuclear enrichment activities.

"Nothing will change. The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue uranium enrichment activities," Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters in Vienna shortly after the UN vote in New York.

Another senior Iranian lawmaker said Iranian MPs would review Iran's cooperation with the IAEA.

"The parliament will review Iran's cooperation level with the agency as a double-urgent matter," Alaeddin Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on Wednesday that she was ready to meet Iran's nuclear negotiator to discuss its enrichment program.

Ashton, who has the backing of all five permanent members of the Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - said shortly after the vote that she was willing to meet Saeed Jalili at the "earliest opportunity", as long as Iran's nuclear program was on the agenda.

"The aim of our efforts is to achieve a comprehensive and long-term settlement which would restore international confidence on the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," her spokesman said in a statement.

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Following the UN vote, several countries hailed the new sanctions.

China, which had been reluctant in the past to back UN measures, urged Iran to comply with the new demands and said that the point of the sanctions was to bring Iran back to the negotiation table.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Wednesday that sanctions sent a clear signal that its nuclear program must not produce bombs, but added that the goal must still be a diplomatic solution to the dispute.

"The resolution is a clear signal from the international community that atomic weapons for Iran are not acceptable," Westerwelle said. "Our goal remains a diplomatic solution. The door is still open to cooperation and transparency."

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia's building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran was proof that Moscow supports the Islamic state's right to peaceful nuclear energy.

Speaking in New York, Churkin said the sanctions were a "forced measure, the implementation of which involved a carefully and proportionally weighted approach," according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Britain also hailed the results of the vote as a "good and powerful" signal from the international community that Iran could no longer refuse to negotiate over its nuclear program.

Foreign Secretary William Hague, repeatedly stressing the importance of the support of China and Russia for the UN move, said:

"It's the world saying that Iran cannot just to refuse to negotiate, and that we are not just going to walk away."

Hague, speaking in London, said the measures marked a "major toughening" of sanctions already in place, and could be hardened further.

"In the absence of change, of course the sanctions will be intensified," he said, adding that European nations now had the opportunity to "build on sanctions as we implement them".

However, the offer for talks also remained on the table. "We hope that Iran will take up that offer," Hague said.