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 new sanctions including restrictions on financial transactions, a tighter arms embargo and authority to seize cargo suspected of being used for Iranian nuclear or missile programs.
With further U.S. and European Union sanctions likely, Iran may take “provocative” steps over the next few months, Cliff Kupchan, a senior analyst at Eurasia Group, a New York political-risk consulting firm, said in an e-mailed commentary.
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 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. “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.
They say the exchange would build confidence and keep talks with Iran open. The U.S. and its allies say Iran has rebuffed diplomacy.
Iran has refused Security Council demands to suspend the production of enriched uranium, which can fuel a reactor or form the core of a bomb. 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.
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, said according to the Iranian Students News Agency.
Lebanon said it abstained because its Cabinet couldn’t reach a decision on the resolution.
The UN measure 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.
Russia will freeze a contract to deliver its S-300 air- defense systems to Iran, Interfax reported today, citing an unidentified Russian defense-industry official.
Iran’s financial transactions, including those related to insurance and re-insurance, would be barred if they might have a nuclear purpose.
Air, Sea Cargo
The sanctions 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.
“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.”