U.N. panel considering new sanctions on Iran

Security Council would increase pressure

March 16, 2007|By Maggie Farley | Maggie Farley,LOS ANGELES TIMES

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council began considering yesterday new sanctions against Iran that would ban arms exports from the country and expand a list of people and organizations whose assets are to be frozen because of their ties to Iran's nuclear activities.

The draft resolution also calls on governments and financial institutions not to offer Iran financial assistance except for humanitarian and developmental purposes, though it did not include restrictions on export credits as originally envisioned.

The penalties go beyond the sanctions imposed by the council in December to compel Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program. They target officials and companies affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which oversees strategic Iranian interests that include oil, gas and its missile program. Russia objected to singling out the group, saying it has little to do with the nuclear program and that including the provision appears to politicize the resolution.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, at the United Nations on a previously scheduled visit, said the sanctions package contains carrots and sticks.

"These measures are gradual and reversible. That means that if in 60 days we have no answer, we will have more sanctions," he said.

But if Iran chooses to halt its program and return to negotiations, he said, it could get economic and technical help to build its civilian nuclear energy program.

"This approach is constructive, positive and the only way to get results," he said.

Iran has rejected a European incentive package that would not allow it to keep full control of its nuclear program.

Because of objections from Russia and China, a travel ban on designated individuals was dropped from the draft, which instead calls for governments to notify a U.N. sanctions committee when those people enter a country.

The text also relaxed a ban on conventional arms sales to Iran and instead asked for nations to "exercise vigilance and restraint" in transferring heavy arms to Iran.

The Security Council's five permanent members - the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia - along with Germany, hammered out the text, then presented it yesterday to the council's other 10 nations. The 10 said they want ample time to consider the text and make changes if necessary, though the key members are hoping for a vote before Wednesday.

In central Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly told a rally that "issuing such torn pieces of paper ... will not have an impact on [the] Iranian nation's will," according to the official news agency, IRNA.

Although the earlier sanctions have had an impact on Iran's economy and trade, they have not persuaded Tehran to halt its nuclear program.

Iran has accelerated its uranium enrichment and insists that it has the right to continue what it says is a peaceful energy program.

Maggie Farley writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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