By Edith M. Lederer/AP
UNITED NATIONS: The world’s major powers sent a strong signal to Iran that they remain united in seeking to rein in its nuclear ambitions, compromising on a new sanctions package to step up pressure against the Islamic republic to suspend uranium enrichment.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to ignore any sanctions and said the UN Security Council has “no legitimacy.” Yet, he asked to speak to the UN’s most powerful body on the day it votes on the new resolution, which is likely to be approved unanimously given the support of the five veto-wielding members.
Thursday’s agreement on the modest sanctions package by Germany and the five permanent council nations: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France culminated more than two weeks of negotiations. But it also engendered bruised feelings among the 10 non-permanent council members who serve two-year terms and were left out of the discussions.
South Africa’s UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the current council president, said the non-permanent members will need time to consider the text. He said the council won’t take up the draft resolution backed by the six countries until Wednesday, and a vote is not expected until late next week at the earliest.
Kumalo said Iran’s UN Mission sent a request for Ahmadinejad to address the council when it votes on the resolution. Under the UN Charter and Security Council rules, he said, if a member state has an issue before the council and requests to appear before its members, “this must be considered.” He said the council would take up the request on Friday.
While saying the decision was up to the council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon backed Ahmadinejad’s request. “Particularly when the agenda item is concerning a member state, it should have a right to participate in any deliberations of any organization of the United Nations,” he said.
The proposed new sanctions would ban Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations involved in the country’s nuclear and missile programs about a third linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. The package also calls for voluntary restrictions on travel by the individuals subject to sanctions and on new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.
In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
Iran responded by expanding its enrichment program and Ahmadinejad remains defiant.
Speaking after Thursday’s six-power agreement, he told a rally in the central city of Meibod: “These threats won’t have one iota of effect on the strong will of the Iranian nation.”
“You (world powers) cannot force the Iranian nation to retreat” on its nuclear program, the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the president as saying.
Like the December resolution, the new draft asks UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the council in 60 days on whether Iran has suspended its enrichment activities.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters after meeting Ban that the council’s aim is to get Iran back to the negotiating table where an incentive package waits if it suspends enrichment and more sanctions loom if it doesn’t.
“These measures are gradual, and they are reversible,” he said. “That means that in 60 days from now if we have no answer, we will have more sanctions.”
While the United States and the Europeans would have liked tougher new sanctions, they knew they would have to accept a modest package to get Russia and China, who have strong commercial ties with Iran, to agree. The word used by most ambassadors to describe the proposed new sanctions was “incremental.”
Acting US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said a key objective is to preserve the council’s unity in support of the new resolution, which he called “a good text.”
“We would like to see the entire council on board,” he said. “Our goal is to do this as early as possible.”
The proposed new draft would freeze the assets of 15 additional individuals and 13 additional organizations and companies.
Seven individuals are members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and three organizations are affiliated with the elite military corps, which oversees vital Iranian interests, including oil and natural gas installations and the nation’s missile arsenal, according to the annex to the draft resolution.
The proposed list includes the Revolutionary Guard’s Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Morteza; the chief of the joint staff, Vice Adm. Ali Akbar Ahmadian; ground forces commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi and four other top officers.
The draft resolution would ban Iran from supplying, selling or transferring “any arms or related material.” All countries would be prohibited from buying Iranian weapons. But there is no ban on Iran buying arms though the draft calls on all nations “to exercise vigilance and restraint” in supplying tanks, combat aircraft and other heavy weapons.
In the financial area, it calls on all governments and financial institutions not to make any new commitments “of grants, financial assistance, or concessional loans” to the Iranian government “except for humanitarian and developmental purposes.”
There is no travel ban, but all countries would be asked to exercise “vigilance and restraint” on the entry or transit through their territory of the individuals whose assets have been frozen and to report to a UN committee on those who show up.
The draft resolution “underlines the willingness of the international community to work positively” for a diplomatic, negotiated solution. It “encourages Iran ... to re-engage with the international community and with the IAEA, and stresses that such engagement will be beneficial to Iran.”