Reuters: Six world powers have agreed that a new U.N. sanctions resolution on Iran would name two more Iranian banks but not put compulsory restrictions on doing business with them, Western diplomats said on Wednesday. By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Six world powers have agreed that a new U.N. sanctions resolution on Iran would name two more Iranian banks but not put compulsory restrictions on doing business with them, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.
The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China agreed on the outlines of a new U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran in Berlin on Tuesday. But diplomats said the draft did not contain the tough punitive economic measures that Washington had been pushing for.
In March 2007 the Security Council imposed a second round of sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend a nuclear program the West fears is aimed at making bombs. Penalties included the freezing of foreign assets of 28 Iranian individuals and entities, including Bank Sepah.
The United States and its three European allies had hoped to impose similar restrictions on two other large Iranian banks — Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, which are already under U.S. sanctions. But Russia and China opposed this, demanding instead a voluntary call for increased monitoring of the banks.
In order to reach agreement on the basic elements of a future resolution, Washington and the European trio decided in Berlin that they should compromise on this and other issues.
“Banks Melli and Saderat are mentioned but will not be subject to the kind of sanctions Sepah is,” a Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
“It’s no secret that we would have preferred a stronger set measures but the unity of the group is as important as the measures,” the Western diplomat said. A second Western diplomat from one of the six countries confirmed this.
He added that the new resolution would include a reference to credit guarantees for exporters to Iran but “without going as far as some of us would like”. Export credits were not mentioned in the two sanctions resolutions already approved.
Diplomats from the six powers were expected to meet in New York later this week to begin discussing the resolution. South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo told reporters the 10 nonpermanent council members had been promised a text by late this week or early next.
“SERIOUS SANCTIONS RESOLUTION”
The specific language of the resolution will have to be negotiated among the 15 nations on the Security Council, but the six powers agreed it would call for increased vigilance regarding business with the two banks, the diplomats said.
The sanctions against Bank Sepah, which the U.S. Treasury Department once described as the “the financial linchpin of Iran’s missile procurement network,” have made life very difficult for its four European branches, diplomats say.
Iran, which denies seeking atomic weapons, has dismissed the idea that Bank Sepah is in trouble.
The outline also calls for the expansion of the list of individuals facing travel bans and asset freezes. Some of the travel restrictions, which are currently voluntary, will also be made compulsory, one of the diplomats said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in Washington that the final text would be “a serious sanctions resolution,” not merely a symbolic exercise.
“It does increase the sanctions and the pressure on Iran,” Casey said.
Senior diplomats from several council member states told Reuters that the recent addition of Libya and Vietnam to the council as of Jan. 1 would make it more difficult for Western countries to push through sanctions resolutions in general.
“Iran will be the test case,” a Western diplomat said. (Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by David Wiessler and Stuart Grudgings)