UNITED NATIONS, March 3 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security
Council imposed a third round of sanctions on Iran on Monday
for refusing to suspend sensitive nuclear activities.
There were 14 votes in favor, no votes against and one
country, Indonesia, abstained.
Tehran denies Western charges it seeks nuclear weapons and
has ignored three previous Security Council resolutions
demanding it freeze its uranium enrichment program, which can
produce fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.
The five permanent council members -- the United States,
Britain, France, China and Russia -- and Germany, which is not
on the council, agreed in Berlin on Jan. 22 on a draft text
outlining a third round of sanctions against Tehran.
Washington had hoped for a swift vote on the sanctions text
but negotiations dragged on for a month and a half until
Monday's meeting of the 15-nation council, which adopted the
Libya, Vietnam and South Africa, as well as Indonesia, had
expressed reservations about the resolution, but vigorous
Western lobbying managed to persuade all except Jakarta.
Iran dismissed the resolution as a violation of
international law and said it only harmed the Security
"The credibility of the Security Council ... is readily
downgraded to a mere tool of the national foreign policy of
just a few countries," Iran's U.N. ambassador, Mohammad
Khazaee, told the council.
He reiterated Tehran's position that its nuclear program
has always been peaceful and that the current and past U.N.
sanctions resolutions against Iran lack any legal basis.
In a statement on behalf of the five permanent members and
Germany, British Ambassador John Sawers told the council the
group wanted EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to meet
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to try to resolve
the nuclear impasse.
It has been clear since January that the new sanctions
would be approved, since they had the backing of all five
permanent council members and six non-permanent members.
But the resolution's European co-sponsors -- Britain,
France and Germany -- were anxious to send the strongest
possible message to Tehran by getting as close to a unanimous
15-0 vote as they could.
South Africa, Libya, Indonesia and Vietnam had all
questioned the wisdom of imposing further sanctions on Iran at
a time when the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna says Tehran's
cooperation with U.N. inspectors has improved significantly.
The resolution calls for more travel and financial
restrictions on named Iranian individuals and companies and
makes some restrictions mandatory. Two earlier sanctions rounds
were approved unanimously in December 2006 and March 2007.
Diplomats describe the third sanctions resolution as a
moderate tightening of the screws from the two previous ones.
They said this was the most Washington could get after a
surprising U.S. intelligence report released in December said
Iran had scrapped its atom bomb program in 2003.
But the U.N. nuclear watchdog is taking seriously new U.S.
intelligence that Washington shared with it on alleged Iranian
nuclear bomb activities, and Western diplomats said that would
make it more difficult for states to vote against sanctions.
Khazaee dismissed the U.S. intelligence as "baseless."