Iran Nuclear NewsS. Africa asks delay on Iran sanctions

S. Africa asks delay on Iran sanctions

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AP: South Africa called Monday for a 90-day “time out” on sanctions against Iran and said a resolution drafted by six world powers should drop an embargo on arms exports and financial sanctions targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an Iranian bank. Associated Press

By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – South Africa called Monday for a 90-day “time out” on sanctions against Iran and said a resolution drafted by six world powers should drop an embargo on arms exports and financial sanctions targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an Iranian bank.

The proposals by South Africa, which holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month, were obtained by The Associated Press ahead of an informal council meeting Tuesday and the first formal discussion Wednesday on the draft resolution.

The five veto-wielding permanent council nations – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – and Germany agreed on modest new sanctions Thursday to step up pressure on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used to produce nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

South Africa and the nine other non-permanent council members were not part of the negotiations and only received the draft Thursday to consider and propose changes.

The extensive amendments to the draft proposed by South Africa could delay a vote on the resolution, although with support from the five permanent members the resolution is almost certain to be adopted.

France’s U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said the South African amendments weren’t consistent with the approach of the six powers. “It weakened a lot of the resolution, and we think that pressure should be put on Iran,” he said.

Iran’s President Mahmound Ahmadinejad wants to address the Security Council on the day of the vote and U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday he will be allowed to travel to New York. The date of the visit has not been finalized.

In its amendments to the draft, South Africa backed a proposal made by U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei in January for a 90-day “simultaneous time out” as a way to defuse tensions.

Under ElBaradei’s suggestion, Iran would suspend its enrichment activities and the Security Council would hold off implementing sanctions so both sides could “go to the negotiating table.”

The South African document said “the 90 day period of grace provided to Iran would allow for a de-escalation of tensions and create an opportunity for Iran and the other parties involved to resume negotiations towards a long-term peaceful solution.”

In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.

Iran responded by expanding its enrichment program – and Ahmadinejad has remained defiant.

The proposed new sanctions in the draft resolution would ban Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations involved in the country’s nuclear and missile programs – about a third linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.

The package also calls for voluntary restrictions on travel by the individuals subject to sanctions, on arms sales to Iran, and on new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.

The South African document said “the resolution should focus only on Iran’s nuclear program” and proposed amendments dropping the ban on Iranian arms exports and voluntary calls on all countries “to exercise vigilance and restraint” in supplying arms to Tehran.

A call on all countries and institutions “not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance and concessional loans” to the Iranian government would also be dropped.

For the same reasons, the South Africans proposed amendments that would eliminate all seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and three organizations affiliated with the elite military corps from the list of those subject to an asset freeze and travel “vigilance.”

South Africa’s U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, who refused to comment on the specifics of the proposal except to say that it was following ElBaradei’s suggestion, said the country wants to stress the importance of political negotiations.

“South Africa is not a window dressing in this council,” he said when asked about the extensive amendments. “We have started engaging with” the permanent members, he said.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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