U.N. sanctions Iran anew over nuclear program

/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.N. 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.

For the first time, the resolution bans trade with Iran in goods which have both civilian and military uses and authorizes inspections of shipments to and from Iran by sea and air that are suspected of carrying banned items.

The vote was 14-0; Indonesia abstained.

Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazee told the council 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,” he 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.”

Iran insists its enrichment activities are intended only for peaceful civilian purposes, but the U.S., the European Union and others suspect its real aim is to make atomic weapons. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

The resolution introduces financial monitoring on 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.

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 report the travels of those Iranians. It bans travel by five individuals linked to Iran’s nuclear effort.

General among those sanctioned
Most of the new individuals subject to sanctions are technical figures. But one, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, is prominent in the Revolutionary Guards, an elite military corps, and close to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The resolution says he has worked to get around previous U.N. sanctions.

Britain and France, who co-sponsored the resolution, delayed the vote until Monday in hopes of winning over four non-permanent council members who had raised a variety of concerns — Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam.

One concern the countries raised is a recent International Atomic Energy Agency report saying 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 more sanctions.

The resolution adopted Monday does welcome Iran’s agreement with the IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, to resolve outstanding issues about its past nuclear program.

It also reiterates that incentives offered by Germany and the five permanent council nations — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — in 2006 remain on the table if Iran suspends enrichment.

But the Americans and their European allies stressed that the report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran has continued to enrich uranium 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.

Monday’s council meeting was delayed for nearly two hours because of a dispute over plans by Britain, France and Germany to present a resolution critical of Iran before the IAEA board.

Diplomats said Russia learned about the planned resolution and complained about not being informed.

Grigory Berdennikov, the chief Russian delegate to the IAEA, said 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, but noted that the investigation was incomplete because Iran had refused to answer questions about its alleged weapons experiments. It also said the IAEA board — not the agency’s leaders — had the final authority to declare the investigation into Iran’s past nuclear programs closed.

The council first imposed 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 Iranian companies and 12 individuals.

Iran expanded its enrichment program, so the council imposed new sanctions in March 2007, this time banning Iranian arms exports and ordering countries to freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations.