Iran condemns UN sanctions

March 4, 2008 1:43:54 PM PST
Iran vowed to push ahead with uranium enrichment Tuesday, a day after the U.N. Security Council passed a third round of sanctions that Tehran called "worthless" and politically biased. The council approved the measures in a 14-0 vote, but unity among the major powers faltered Tuesday when Russia and China blocked an attempt by Western nations to introduce a resolution on Iran's nuclear defiance at a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.

The dispute reflected the often contentious relations between the West and Russia and China about how to deal with Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment and meet other Security Council demands aimed at ensuring its nuclear program isn't trying to produce atomic weapons.

The sanctions approved Monday ordered a freeze on assets of additional Iranian officials and companies with links to the country's nuclear and missile programs and banned for the first time trade with Iran in some goods that have both civilian and military uses.

"This resolution is contrary to the spirit and articles of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It has been issued based on political motivations and a biased approach. It is worthless and unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini was quoted as saying by Iran's official news agency.

He said the sanctions would "have no impact on the resolve and determination of the Iranian nation and government to fulfill its legitimate rights in continuing its peaceful nuclear activities within the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."

Iran insists its enrichment work is intended to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity. The U.S. and others worry about Iran's intentions, because higher-grade enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear warheads.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters in New York on Tuesday that Tehran's response meant the Security Council had taken appropriate action.

"That shows that they don't like what has happened, which means that we've done the right thing, because they are in violation of two previous resolutions and we have to do something that indicates displeasure and causes more pressure on them," Khalilzad said.

The new sanctions came after an IAEA report in late February said Iran continues to defy U.N. demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

While the report said the IAEA had made progress investigating Iran's past nuclear activities, it said Tehran had not responded properly to intelligence forwarded by the U.S. and its allies purportedly showing the Iranians were developing nuclear weapons technology.

In an attempt to keep up pressure on Iran, Britain, France and Germany had hoped to present a resolution before the IAEA board, which is currently meeting in Vienna, Austria, that highlighted Tehran's nuclear defiance.

A draft of the resolution made available to The Associated Press called on IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to continue investigations into the purported nuclear weapons-related experiments, despite Iranian insistence that such allegations are fabrications.

Although they voted for the Security Council sanctions, Russia and China scuttled the Western initiative at the IAEA on Tuesday, a decision that appeared to stem from lingering unhappiness about not being informed earlier of plans for the resolution.

Asked why Russia and China were opposed, one diplomat said Moscow decided to withdraw its support "on principle" and Beijing, which often takes a cue from Russia on the Iran nuclear dispute, followed suit. He, like others accredited to the IAEA, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the confidential information.

A senior Western diplomat said the decision to scrap the resolution was jointly taken by the six powers trying to negotiate with Iran on its nuclear program - the U.S., Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France. He said the six felt the new U.N. sanctions had sent enough of a message.

But two other diplomats, speaking separately, insisted the resolution was scrapped because of Russian and Chinese opposition and said any suggestions of unity on the issue were an attempt to paper over an East-West split among the world powers.

Iran says the latest IAEA report vindicated its nuclear program and left no justification for any Security Council sanctions.

"This illogical, illegal behavior by the Security Council not only won't help resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, but it will make the issue more complicated," IRNA quoted Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying.

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Associated Press writers George Jahn in Vienna, Austria, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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