Iran said it will consider downgrading relations with the United Nations nuclear agency after the UN Security Council passed a fourth round of sanctions against the Persian Gulf nation over its atomic development.
Parliament on June 13 will discuss revising Iran’s ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency as a result of the sanctions, a senior lawmaker, Esmaeil Kosari, was cited as saying today by the state-run Fars news agency. “We are studying this and will comment when it’s done,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said by phone from Tehran.
The Security Council, with backing from Russia and China, yesterday approved sanctions that include restrictions on financial transactions, a tighter arms embargo and authority to seize cargo suspected of being used for Iranian nuclear or missile programs.
The U.S. Congress is now likely to press ahead with legislation targeting Iran’s energy sector, while the European Union may limit financial dealings with Iran, said Mark Fitzpatrick, a former State Department official who heads the non-proliferation program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “There’s a mood to apply much tougher sanctions than the UN did,” he said today by phone.
Iran’s representative at the IAEA downplayed the possibility his country would end its cooperation with the agency, which monitors compliance with the international treaty on nuclear weapons.
“The parliamentarians are very upset,” Ambassador Aliasghar Soltanieh told reporters today at the IAEA’s offices in Vienna. “As of now, there is no intention to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to stop our cooperation in accordance with IAEA safeguards.”
Iran denounced the sanctions, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said should be “thrown into the trash bin like a used tissue.”
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 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 on the Foreign Ministry’s website after the vote.
‘Nuclear Arms Race’
“We will ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced,” President Barack Obama said at the White House. “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 is needed for energy production.
Brazil and Turkey, which have temporary seats on the Security Council, both criticized the sanctions. The two countries brokered a proposed agreement with Iran under which half of its low-enriched uranium would be swapped for a more concentrated supply in a form that can only be used in a medical-research reactor in Tehran that will run out of fuel. More highly enriched uranium is used in nuclear weapons.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today called the latest sanctions a “historic mistake” and said his country and Brazil will press ahead with diplomatic efforts based on the fuel-swap proposal.
Iran had vowed to scrap the fuel deal if sanctions were approved. There has been no comment from the government in Tehran on whether it will meet that pledge.
The U.S. and its allies say Iran has rebuffed diplomacy by refusing Security Council demands to suspend the production of enriched uranium. The IAEA has criticized Iran for failing to cooperate with its inspectors.
Cutting IAEA access in Iran would be a blow to inspectors, who last month negotiated enhanced access to a uranium enrichment site in Natanz. The agency said May 31 that it won the right to add more cameras, increase atomic-material accounting and conduct surprise inspections at the site, where Iran has produced 5.7 kilograms (12.6 pounds) of 20 percent enriched uranium.
While most nuclear weapons contain 90 percent enriched uranium, concentrations as low as 20 percent can start the atomic fission seen in nuclear weapons.
Russia and China, which had resisted further UN sanctions to avoid damaging their commercial ties with Iran, agreed to the measures after amendments to the text. Russia is building Iran’s first nuclear power plant and will supply the fuel for it. China exports gasoline to Iran.
Iran expressed disappointment with China’s vote for sanctions. “It will slowly lose its respectable position in the Muslim world and will wake up when it’s too late,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, according to the Iranian Students News Agency.
Lawmakers in Washington were waiting for the UN vote before writing a final version of U.S. legislation to penalize foreign companies that sell gasoline to the country or invest in building or upgrading its refineries. U.S. companies already are barred from most trade with Iran under other laws.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, a California Democrat, yesterday applauded the UN resolution and predicted the Congress would follow up by passing the gasoline sanctions this month.
The EU and other nations also should “build on the Security Council resolution by imposing tougher national measures that will deepen Iran’s isolation and, hopefully, bring the Iranian leadership to its senses,” Berman said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.
The tightened UN sanctions will make it “increasingly risky” for foreign companies to deal with Iran, said Lexington, Massachusetts-based IHS Global Insight in an e-mailed commentary.
“In all likelihood, however, Iran will continue to make the calculation that existing economic costs are weighed up by the ideological and political value in continuing to resist foreign pressures,” it said.