UN slaps fourth set of sanctions on Iran
United Nations: The UN Security Council slapped a fourth set of punitive measures on Iran Wednesday hoping to persuade the Islamic republic to curb its suspect nuclear program by widening military and financial sanctions.
The vote in the 15-member council was 12 in favor of the US-drafted resolution, with Lebanon abstaining and Brazil and Turkey voting against.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to suspend nuclear negotiations in response to what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said are "the most significant sanctions that Iran has ever faced."
The resolution, co-sponsored by Britain and France with the backing of Russia and China, expands an arms embargo and bars the country from sensitive activities like uranium mining.
It authorizes states to conduct high-sea inspections of vessels believed to be ferrying banned items for Iran and adds 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.
Tehran maintains that its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful civilian purposes, while the Western nations have charged that Iran is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice immediately hailed Wednesday`s vote, saying: "The council has risen to its responsibilities. Now Iran should choose a wiser course."
But in Tehran, a foreign ministry spokesman slammed the new sanctions as an "incorrect step" that will "complicate" the situation more.
And Iran made it clear through its envoy at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency that it would not halt uranium enrichment.
China, which voted in favor but was keen to protect its substantial energy and economic interests in Iran, said the resolution aims to coax Iran into returning to the negotiating table and fulfilling its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it has signed.
"Sanctions can never fundamentally resolve" the standoff, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said, stressing the need to pursue a dialogue with Iran.
His French counterpart Gerard Araud said the sanctions "would increase the cost to Iran of its proliferation" activities and "will afford more time for diplomacy."
The resolution was approved despite the sustained efforts of Brazil and Turkey to head off the measures and promote a nuclear fuel swap deal they reached with Tehran last month.
Under the plan, Iran agreed to ship 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for high-enriched uranium fuel for a Tehran research reactor that would be supplied later by Russia and France.
The six powers trying to clip Iran`s nuclear ambitions -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- have cold-shouldered that proposal.
Ahmadinejad, however, urged Western powers not to dismiss the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil last month, which he described as an opportunity that should be "put to good use."
"Opportunities will not be repeated," he warned.
Wednesday`s vote was delayed for more than an hour after the ambassadors of Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon, three non-permanent members council members, said they had to await instructions from their governments.
The three countries finally decided to attend the meeting, but Brazil and Turkey insisted on speaking before the vote to register their opposition.
"We do not see sanctions as an effective instrument in this case," Brazil`s Ambassador Maria Luiza Viotti said.
She touted the nuclear fuel swap deal as a pathway to a negotiated solution.
But Rice said the deal "does not respond to the fundamental, well-founded, and unanswered concerns about Iran?s nuclear program."
"The United States reaffirms our commitment to engage in robust, principled, and creative diplomacy. We will remain ready to continue diplomacy with Iran and its leaders to make it clear how much they have to gain from acting responsibly and how much more they stand to lose from continued recklessness," she added.
Four rounds of UN sanctions have now been imposed on Iran since December 2006. The third round was adopted on March 3, 2008.
Among those subject to the new travel restrictions are Javad Rahiqi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran`s Isfahan nuclear technology center.
According to the text, 22 of the entities are linked to Iran`s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, 15 are "owned, controlled, or acting on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps" and three are controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.
The Western campaign was boosted by getting Russia and China onboard.
But Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose country has strong economic ties with Tehran, pressed for tempered sanctions.
"Sanctions are basically ineffective," Putin told AFP in an interview late Monday, adding Moscow was working with other countries to ease concerns over Iran`s nuclear program.
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