Iran Nuclear NewsSecurity Council votes to tighten Iran sanctions

Security Council votes to tighten Iran sanctions


New York Times: The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed Saturday to impose new, more stringent sanctions to press Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and rejoin negotiations over its nuclear program. The New York Times

Published: March 25, 2007

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 — The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed Saturday to impose new, more stringent sanctions to press Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and rejoin negotiations over its nuclear program.

All 15 members of the Security Council adopted the sanctions, Resolution 1747, which focus on constraining Iranian arms exports, the state-owned Bank Sepah — already under Treasury Department sanctions — and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military organization separate from the nation’s conventional armed forces.

No surprises were in the resolution, which modestly strengthens largely financial sanctions adopted in December in a first, limited resolution. Senior American officials hailed the new resolution as a significant international rebuke to Iran, and they predicted that the new resolution’s prohibitions on dealings with 15 individuals and 13 organizations would leave Tehran more isolated.

The Iranian representative to the session denounced the action as unlawful and unjustifiable — and vowed it would have no impact on what Tehran describes as a peaceful nuclear energy program.

The Council acted after months of increasing tensions between the United States and Iran, not only over its nuclear program, concerns that many Western and Middle Eastern countries share. The United States in recent weeks has publicly accused Iran of supplying new and powerful explosives to insurgents in Iraq.

And the Council voted one day after naval forces under the command of Revolutionary Guards seized eight British sailors and seven British marines in waters off the coast of Iraq.

In order to assure a unanimous vote that would symbolize united world opinion against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, lengthy negotiations continued through Friday on a series of amendments from three of the Security Council’s nonpermanent members, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar. Their votes were seen as particularly important, because South Africa is a leader of the nonaligned movement, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation and Qatar is a Gulf neighbor of Iran.

The Security Council representatives of those three nations each expressed deep concerns about the final language of the sanctions resolution, but eventually cast yes votes.

The sanctions package approved Saturday, American officials said, was devised to do more than simply punish Iran for its nuclear program, as was the more limited goal of the sanctions vote in December. The new language was written to rein in what they see as Tehran’s ambitions to become the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf and across the broader Middle East.

“We are trying to force a change in the actions and behavior of the Iranian government,” said R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs. “And so the sanctions are immediately focused on the nuclear weapons research program, but we also are trying to limit the ability of Iran to be a disruptive and violent factor in Middle East politics.”

The resolution calls for freezing the overseas assets of the 15 Iranian citizens and 13 organizations, some involved in the nation’s nuclear programs and missile development efforts and some associated with the Revolutionary Guard.

That corps and a subordinate military unit, the Quds Force, are not directly involved in Iran’s nuclear program. But the United States and Israel say they have supplied small arms and rockets to Hezbollah and Hamas, labeled by the State Department as terrorist organizations.

American intelligence officers also say they have indications that the guard is linked to new and more powerful improvised explosives planted by insurgent groups in Iraq against American and coalition forces there. “If we can begin to limit the Quds Force, which has been supplying enhanced explosive technology to Iraq that has been used to kill our soldiers, that is a significant step for us,” Mr. Burns said in a telephone interview after the vote.

The new resolution prohibits the sale or transfer of Iranian weapons to any nation or organization, and calls on the nations of the world to “exercise vigilance and restraint” in exporting weapons to Iran. The measure invokes Chapter 7, Article 41, of the United Nations charter, rendering most of the provisions mandatory, but excluding military action to enforce them.

The sanction on Iran’s fourth-largest bank was written to halt its use as a conduit for money supporting Iran’s nuclear program.

One decidedly weaker sanctions category in the new resolution calls on, but does not require, nations and international organizations not to enter into new commitments for export credits, grants or loans to Iran except in the case of humanitarian or development projects.

The measure asks the International Atomic Energy Agency to report back within 60 days on whether Iran has suspended its efforts at enriching uranium. If it says Iran has not, further sanctions may be considered. If the agency says Iran has complied, sanctions will be suspended.

The Iranian seat at the horseshoe-shaped table was filled by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. The seat had been reserved for Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but on Friday Iranian officials ignited an exchange of recriminations, saying that the president’s trip had been scuttled by tardy action from the United States government in issuing the visas.

In reply, a State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, said the United States Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, which handles visas for Iranians, had issued all of the required documents by early Friday and in ample time for the visit. It was not possible to independently verify either position.

After the vote, the Iranian foreign minister made a long and defiant rebuttal to the Security Council, dismissing the sanctions as “unlawful, unnecessary and unjustifiable” and said they would have no effect.

“Iran does not seek confrontation nor does it want anything beyond its inalienable rights,” Mr. Mottaki said. “I can assure you that pressure and intimidation will not change Iranian policy.”

He said that suspension of the Iranian nuclear program “is neither an option nor a solution,” and that it was “a gross violation” of the United Nations charter to use sanctions in an effort to halt what he contended was a peaceful nuclear energy program.

The resolution included amended language that stressed the importance of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East — without reference to Israel, a close American ally widely believed to have nuclear weapons — and emphasized the importance of the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in nonproliferation efforts and safeguarding nuclear materials.

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