Iran Nuclear NewsU.N. postpones vote on penalties for Iran

U.N. postpones vote on penalties for Iran

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New York Times: The Security Council postponed voting Friday on a resolution aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear program, after Russia objected that the document restricted legitimate business activities. The New York Times

By ELISSA GOOTMAN
Published: December 23, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 22 — The Security Council postponed voting Friday on a resolution aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear program, after Russia objected that the document restricted legitimate business activities.

After a full day of negotiations, however, the resolution’s European sponsors were optimistic that the Security Council would approve a slightly altered version by the end of the day on Saturday. The altered version of the resolution is aimed at satisfying Russia’s demands without weakening the measure in such a way that it would be unpalatable to the Americans and Europeans.

The 11th-hour negotiations on Friday were the latest glitch in a protracted effort by Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — to agree on precise terms of the resolution, which would ban the import and export of materials and technology used for uranium enrichment, reprocessing and ballistic missile systems.

Talks about possible sanctions began after Iran flouted an Aug. 31 deadline to suspend enrichment, which can produce fuel for nuclear plants and weapons. Iran has insisted that it has the right to cultivate nuclear power for peaceful energy purposes, while the Americans and Europeans maintain that its efforts are geared toward the production of nuclear weapons.

Since the earliest drafts of the resolution started circulating in October, there have been various revisions. Perhaps most significant, the six countries on Wednesday all but eliminated a travel ban on a dozen people deemed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

While older drafts had mandated that all states “prevent entry” of the dozen people named, as well as others who could be designated in the future, Wednesday’s draft simply “calls upon” states to “exercise vigilance” over who crosses their borders. It also eased a freeze on the assets of those people and other prohibited companies.

Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, had applauded the relaxing of the travel ban. But early Friday, Mr. Churkin, whose country has strong economic ties with Iran, said the resolution continued to be too sweeping and prohibited activities that could be legitimate. He said the resolution was not intended to be punitive and should aim at encouraging Iran to negotiate.

“We must make sure that perfectly legal, innocent activities which have nothing to do with the risk of nuclear proliferation can proceed normally,” Mr. Churkin told reporters. “This is our interest.”

The latest, revised version of the resolution would give countries more latitude to authorize the unfreezing of certain assets. It also no longer spells out certain exceptions to the asset freeze, apparently to drive home the point that the ban is aimed only at prohibited nuclear activities and not legitimate business deals.

Diplomats said the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, would review the resolution at a meeting with advisers on Saturday morning in Moscow. Wang Guangya, China’s United Nations ambassador, was noncommittal, saying, “Now we have to go back to capitals.”

Emyr Jones Parry, the British ambassador to the United Nations, said the latest changes “increase the chances of agreement.”

Also on Friday, Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is days away from the end of his term, announced a new policy prohibiting United Nations staff members who work in procurement from immediately taking jobs with contractors or vendors they have dealt with during their last three years of United Nations service. That prohibition is limited to one year after the staff members leave the United Nations.

Under the new policy, former staff members must wait two years before working with the United Nations on behalf of outside groups or vendors on matters that concern their former procurement responsibilities.

Mr. Annan’s spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said the regulations were a response to abuses in the oil for food program as well as other alleged improprieties among procurement officials.

Mr. Dujarric described the policy as “unprecedented,” saying the United Nations has never had a policy regulating staff members’ future employment.

Mr. Annan also issued a protocol for making available the findings of the United Nations investigation into the oil for food program. The investigation was led by Paul A. Volcker.

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