U.S. gets China, Russia on board for Iran sanctions
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States introduced a United Nations resolution aimed at Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program on Tuesday, having won long-sought and pivotal support from China and Russia for new sanctions against its powerful Revolutionary Guard and new measures to try to curtail Iran’s military, financial and shipping activities.
The agreement appeared to be a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has doggedly pursued sanctions since Iran rebuffed U.S. overtures last year.
The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, would ban Iran from pursuing “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” freeze assets of nuclear-related companies linked to the Revolutionary Guard, bar Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining and prohibit Iran from buying several categories of heavy weapons.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the resolution, backed by all five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, would give “greater teeth” to existing sanctions and add “strong” new measures to intensify pressure on the Iranian government to resolve concerns that its nuclear program is peaceful and not aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
Russia and China, which have close ties to Iran, joined fellow permanent council members Britain, France and the United States as well as non-member Germany in supporting the sanctions proposal, ignoring a deal that Tehran struck with Turkey and Brazil a day earlier in an effort to stave off the penalties.
Either Russia and China could have vetoed the deal, and both resisted sanctions before they were persuaded to support the stepped up pressure on Iran in recent weeks. Proposed sanctions relating to Iran’s oil and gas industry were removed due to opposition from the two countries, which have vast investments and interests in Iran’s energy sector.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud underlined that an agreement by six countries with “very different political positions … is clear evidence of the great concern of the international community” over Iran’s nuclear program and its desire for a negotiated diplomatic solution.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong reiterated Beijing’s commitment to pressure and talks, saying “we believe that circulating this draft resolution does not mean the door for diplomacy is closed.”
The draft resolution stresses the willingness of the five permanent council members “to further enhance diplomatic efforts to promote dialogue and consultations … without preconditions.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Senate committee that she spent Tuesday on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “finalizing the resolution.”
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the final draft is acceptable because it is “focused adequately on nonproliferation matters” and doesn’t cause “humanitarian damage” or create problems for normal economic activities in Iran and the country’s economic relations with other countries.
Rice said the pursuit of new sanctions has nothing to do with the proposed swap of nuclear material for Tehran’s research reactor that Iran agreed to Monday with Brazil and Turkey. She stressed that the proposed resolution is targeting the Islamic Republic’s refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program and its plans to build 10 new nuclear facilities.
She presented the draft to the 10 non-permanent council members – including Brazil and Turkey – and said the U.S. will work hard to win support from as many members as possible. She said she is confident the resolution will get the minimum 9 “yes” votes.
Rice said the U.S. considers new sanctions “urgent” but wouldn’t speculate on when the resolution will be put to a vote.
The draft resolution would target a range of activities related to Iran’s nuclear program, including the Revolutionary Guard, which controls companies and organizations that have links to weapons proliferation. These companies and individuals would be added to a list of those subject to an asset freeze and travel ban that is still being compiled.
The draft resolution also calls on all countries “to exercise vigilance” over Revolutionary Guard transactions “that could contribute to Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.”
The draft would also:
– Ban Iranian investment in such sensitive nuclear activities abroad as uranium mining.
– Prohibit the sale of eight categories of heavy weapons including attack helicopters, warships, missiles and battle tanks to the Islamic Republic.
– Ban Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons and order states to “take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance to Iran related to such activities.”
The last sanctions resolution, adopted in March 2008, authorized inspection of cargo suspected of containing banned items on planes and ships owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line. The new proposal would call on countries to cooperate in inspections – which must receive the consent of the ship’s flag state – and ban the supply of fuel or services to Iranian owned or contracted vessels suspected of carrying prohibited cargo.
The draft resolution is weaker than the original Western-backed proposal, especially on financial and energy-related measures. Rather than place sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, the proposed resolution simply notes the “potential connection” between Iranian energy revenues and funding for the country’s nuclear program and calls on U.N. members to be aware of it.
On the financial side, the draft calls on – but does not require – countries to block financial transactions, including insurance and reinsurance, and ban the licensing of Iranian banks if they have information that provides “reasonable grounds” to believe these activities could contribute to Iranian nuclear activities.
The draft, in its preamble, recalls the needs for states “to exercise vigilance” over all Iranian banks, including the Central Bank, to prevent transactions contributing to proliferation activities – but there is not even an official “call” by the council to do this.
To improve compliance by the 192 U.N. member states, the draft resolution calls for the establishment of a panel of experts to monitor implementation of the four sanctions resolutions against Iran.
Many had believed Monday’s Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal would blunt the U.S.-led drive for new sanctions, but Clinton said the six-power agreement on a new resolution was a rejection of Iran’s efforts to forestall penalties.
“This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken by Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We don’t believe it was any accident that Iran agreed to this declaration as we were preparing to move forward in New York.”
Iran on Monday agreed to ship much of its low-enriched uranium abroad to Turkey, and in exchange receive within a year higher-enriched fuel rods to be used in a U.S.-built medical research reactor in Tehran. But it then rolled out a new obstacle to nuclear compromise by insisting it would press ahead with higher enrichment.
In October, the six powers had backed a similar uranium swap proposed by the U.N. nuclear agency as a confidence-building measure. It called for sending the low-enriched uranium to Russia, and then to France to be turned into fuel rods.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who were in Tehran for the announcement of the uranium deal, urged the international community to support the deal.
“I think Iran has taken a leap forward,” Erdogan told on Tuesday.
Brazil’s U.N. Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti told reporters that “Brazil is not engaged in any discussion on a draft at this point because we feel there is a new situation” following Monday’s agreement (which) “is a very important first step.”
“We should seize this opportunity for dialogue and for negotiations,” she said.
But Rice, the U.S. ambassador, said Iran’s decision to continue enriching uranium to 20 percent hastens the time that it could produce a nuclear weapon. She said it “eliminates any confidence-building potential … and intensifies Iran’s violations of existing sanctions regimes.”
Ahead of the council meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Iran has failed to meet its international obligations on its nuclear program and called on Tehran to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s demands, said U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky.
The secretary-general said Iran’s deal with Turkey and Brazil “could be a positive step in building confidence about Iran’s nuclear program, if followed by broader engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community,” Nesirky said.
The Vienna-based IAEA has received the text of the Iran-Turkey-Brazil pact and expects written confirmation of the terms from Tehran, Nesirky said.
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