Iran Nuclear Sanctions Are Tightened by UN

United Nations sanctions on Iran adopted yesterday by the Security Council include restrictions on financial transactions, a tighter arms embargo and authority to seize cargo linked to nuclear or missile programs.

The 15-nation council voted 12 to 2, with one abstention, to approve a resolution that also freezes the assets of 40 companies, banks and government agencies, and bars the foreign travel of Javad Rahiqi, head of a branch of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Turkey and Brazil voted against the measure, and Lebanon abstained.

China, which joined in voting for the measure, said today the sanctions don’t close off continued diplomacy. A solution to the nuclear standoff should be resolved through dialogue and diplomatic means, spokesman Qin Gang said in comments posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website after the vote.

“We will ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced,” President Barack Obama said at the White House after the vote. “A nuclear arms race in the Middle East is in nobody’s interest.”

The new penalties, the fourth set of sanctions imposed on Iran by the council since 2006, aim to block Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons and pressure the country to join international talks on the issue. Iran maintains that its nuclear development work is intended for energy production.

The Brazilian ambassador to the world body, Maria Viotti, told the Security Council before the vote that the resolution was a mistake. “Sanctions threats can result in tragic consequences,” she said.

Peace and Security

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the sanctions don’t contribute to regional peace and security.

Brazil and Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally of the U.S. that borders Iran, have pursued a deal to swap Iranian enriched uranium for fuel to power a medical-isotopes reactor. The two countries, which have temporary seats on the Security Council, say the exchange would build confidence and keep talks with Iran open. The U.S. and its allies say Iran has rebuffed diplomacy.

The vote drew an immediate reaction from Iran. “The sanctions you pass should be thrown into the trash bin like a used tissue,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was cited as saying by the state-run Iranian Students News Agency. “They are not capable of harming the Iranian nation.”

China Disappointment

Iran also expressed disappointment with China’s vote for the text. “It’s showing a behavior that will certainly influence the Islamic world and the minds of the Muslims,” Ali Akbar Salehi, vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said according to the student agency. “It will slowly lose its respectable position in the Muslim world and will wake up when it’s too late,” he said.

Iran’s parliament will consider downgrading the country’s relations with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency as a result of the sanctions, lawmaker Esmaeil Kosari was cited as saying today by the state-run Fars news agency. Kosari is the second-ranking member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.

Ahmadinejad is due to visit’s Iran’s pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai tomorrow and has scheduled a media briefing.

Lebanon, which represents Arab nations on the Security Council, said its Cabinet couldn’t reach a decision on the resolution. “There was no majority, no consensus, therefore it was an abstention,” Mohamad Chatah, a political adviser to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said in a telephone interview.

Sanctions Details

The UN resolution bars Iran from investing in uranium mining or the construction of new enrichment facilities. It bans sales to Iran of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, fighter jets, attack helicopters, warships or missiles.

Financial transactions, including those related to insurance and re-insurance, would be barred if they might have a nuclear purpose.

The text “calls upon” nations to intercept and inspect any cargo by air or sea suspected of containing banned materials that would contribute to Iran’s nuclear or missile programs.

Three annexes to the resolution’s main text cite 15 entities “owned, controlled or acting on behalf” of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, an arm of the Iranian military with extensive business interests. Also cited are three companies the resolution says are related to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, and 22 companies it says are involved in nuclear and ballistic missile activities.

Targets Banks

The resolution targets the Malaysia-based First East Export Bank, which is “owned or controlled” by Bank Mellat, named in previous sanctions. Mellat has “facilitated” hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions linked to Iranian nuclear defense and missile entities, according to the resolution.

The text “encourages” the Vienna-based IAEA to continue talks with Iran aimed at “measures to build confidence” in the country’s intentions. It takes note of the effort by Brazil and Turkey to reach an agreement with Iran under which half of its enriched uranium would be swapped for fuel in a form that can only be used in Tehran’s medical-research reactor.

A fourth annex repeats the political and economic incentives to negotiations presented to Iran in June 2008 by the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union. The foreign ministers of the six nations released a statement saying the resolution “keeps the door open for continued engagement.”

Iran’s Refusal

“If Iran would meet and engage on their nuclear program, there was receptivity,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Colombia. “We know that Iran did not and would not. At the end of the day, it was clear Iran was not willing to abide by the expectations of the international community.”

The UN action is “long overdue but doesn’t go far enough,” Representative John Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader in the U.S. House, said in a statement.

Boehner said Obama’s 16-month ‘engagement strategy’ on this issue has simply given the Iranians 16 more months to work on acquiring nuclear capability.

“At the request of the administration, Congress has repeatedly delayed mandatory bilateral sanctions legislation,” he said. “Any justification for delay is now at an end, and the Congress must act immediately.”

To contact the reporter on this story: William Varner in New York at wvarner@bloomberg.net.

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