Iran defiant in the face of new sanctions

March 3, 2008 5:36:44 PM PST
The U.N. Security Council imposed another round of sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, but Iran defiantly vowed Monday to continue its nuclear program despite the nearly unanimous censuring vote. The resolution authorized a third set of sanctions targeting individuals, companies and equipment that could be used in Iran's nuclear program. It was adopted on a vote of 14-0, with Indonesia abstaining.

Two previous sanctions resolution were adopted unanimously, but diplomats said this vote still sent a strong message to the Tehran government that there is global concern that Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons. Iran insists the program is aimed only at generating power.

The council imposed limited sanctions in December 2006 and has been ratcheting them up in hopes of pressuring Iran to suspend enrichment and start negotiations on its nuclear program. Iran has repeatedly defied the demand and has stepped up enrichment activities.

Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazee said just before Monday's vote that his government would not comply with what he called "unlawful action" against Iran's "peaceful nuclear program." He said the Security Council was being "downgraded to a mere tool of the national foreign policy of just a few countries."

"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."

The six nations at the forefront of efforts to ensure Iran does not develop an atomic weapon program - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - said the resolution sends "a strong message of international resolve" about "the proliferation risks of its nuclear program."

Foreign ministers of the six countries issued a joint statement reaffirming their dual-track approach: Political, security and economic incentives offered in June 2006 if Iran suspends enrichment remains on the table and can be further developed - but continued defiance will lead to further measures.

The ministers asked the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, to meet with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, "to address the interests and concerns of both sides in a manner which can gradually create the conditions for the opening of negotiations."

For the first time, the council has banned trade with Iran in goods that have both civilian and military uses. The resolution authorizes inspection of cargo suspected of containing banned items on planes and ships owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line.

The resolution introduces financial monitoring of two banks with purported links to suspect Iranian nuclear activities, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat.

The council calls on all countries "to exercise vigilance" in entering into new trade commitments with Iran, including granting export credits, guarantees or insurance.

It orders countries to freeze the assets of 12 additional companies and 13 individuals with links to Iran's nuclear or ballistic missile programs - and report the travel 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. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, is a prominent figure in the elite Revolutionary Guard military corps and is close to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He is identified 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 who has tried to get around previous U.N. sanctions.

Britain and France, which co-sponsored the resolution, put off the vote from Saturday until Monday to address concerns raised by four non-permanent council members - Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam. In the final vote, Libya, South Africa and Vietnam voted "yes," while Indonesia abstained.

Diplomats credited French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited South Africa last week, for helping to sway the Libyans and South Africans.

Indonesian Ambassador Marty Natalegawa spoke against additional sanctions, telling the council that Iran is cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We must avoid more of the same," he said. "At this juncture, more sanctions are not the best cause."

The resolution was adopted 10 days after the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency, reported that suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest.

But the report also said Iran dismissed as false and irrelevant new documents that link Tehran to missile and explosives experiments and other work connected to a possible nuclear weapons program. The IAEA also confirmed Iran continues to enrich uranium.

The first U.N. sanctions against Iran ordered all countries to stop supplying Tehran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also ordered nations to freeze the assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.

When Iran responded by expanding its enrichment program, the council imposed new sanctions last March, 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.

--- Associated Press writer John Heilprin contributed to this report.