UN slaps new curbs on Iran
10 June, 2010
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions in as many years on a defiant Iran on Wednesday over a nuclear programme the West suspects is aimed at developing atomic weapons.
Iran insisted it would go ahead with the uranium enrichment at the centre of the dispute. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the UN resolution was “valueless” and should be thrown “in the waste bin like a used handkerchief.”
But Russia and China, which have strong economic ties with Tehran and have at times resisted sanctions, fully backed the new UN move to blacklist 40 Iranian military, industrial and shipping firms, along with other measures. US President Barack Obama said the sanctions would be vigorously enforced.
The resolution followed five months of arduous negotiations between the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. With 12 votes in favour, it received the least support in the 15-nation council of the four Iran sanctions resolutions adopted by since 2006.
Brazil and Turkey, angry at the West’s dismissal of anatomic fuel deal with Iran that they said made new sanctions unnecessary, voted against. Lebanon, where the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah is in the government, abstained.
The four Western powers had wanted tougher measures ñ some targeting Iran’s energy sector — but Beijing and Moscow succeeded in diluting the steps outlined in the resolution.“This council has risen to its responsibilities. Now Iran should choose a wiser course,” US Ambassador Susan Rice told the council after the vote.
Iran denies Western allegations that it is seeking atomic weapons, insisting that it only wants peaceful nuclear energy. Tehran’s envoy to the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna said the sanctions would not affect Iran’s determination to press ahead with its uranium enrichment programme.
“Nothing will change. The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue uranium enrichment activities,” Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said in the Austrian capital. China, which had hesitated for months before joining talks on new sanctions in January, called for full implementation of the new measures and urged Tehran to comply with international demands about its enrichment programme.
In Washington, Obama said the new sanctions were the most comprehensive that Iran had faced and sent an unmistakable message. “We will ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced, just as we continue to refine and enforce our own sanctions on Iran,” he said.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the resolution was “a clear signal that Iran’s continued failure ... to cease its enrichment-related activities cannot be tolerated.” Israel, which has hinted it could bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities the way it did Iraq’s in 1981, said the new sanctions were an important step, but called for even broader economic and diplomatic measures.
The Russia’s Foreign Ministry may have had Israel in mind when it announced that the measures in the resolution “exclude the possibility of employing force.” The resolution calls for measures against new Iranian banks abroad if a connection to the nuclear or missile programmes is suspected, as well as vigilance over transactions with any Iranian bank, including the central bank.
It also expands a UN arms embargo against Tehran and blacklists three firms controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and 15 belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The resolution also calls for setting up a cargo inspection regime similar to one in place for North Korea. The resolution lists 40 companies in all to be added to a UN blacklist of firms whose assets worldwide are to be frozen for aiding Iran’s nuclear or missile programmes.
The only new name of an individual on the blacklist is that of Javad Rahiqi, head of an Iranian nuclear center where uranium is processed. His assets will also be blocked and he will face an international travel ban.
The EU diplomats said major European states plan to use the UN move to impose their own unilateral sanctions on Iran and could agree them very soon. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates hinted that unilateral measures that the United States and its EU allies might approve could target Iran’s oil and gas exports.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Iran’s “diverse leadership” on Wednesday that there is still an opportunity for them to return to negotiations despite new UN Security Council sanctions.
Speaking during a visit to Colombia, the chief US diplomat did not rule out a negotiating role for Brazil and Turkey, which voted against the sanctions after clinching a nuclear swap deal with Tehran dismissed by Washington.
“Our ultimate goal is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Clinton told reporters traveling with her after she discussed the sanctions vote with President Barack Obama on the phone.
“We can, we believe, slow down and certainly interfere with and make much more difficult their continuing nuclear programme through these sanctions,” she said, adding that is in itself an “important” accomplishment.
Meanwhile, the US Congress will pass further sanctions on Iran this month, a Democratic lawmaker predicted on Wednesday, calling new UN measures a critical step but urging tougher action to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. Capitol Hill Republicans mocked the UN resolution as weak, and said it was more important than ever that Congress pass its own set of crippling sanctions on Iran.