Big powers agree on Iran sanctions draft

Big powers agree on Iran sanctions draft
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First Published: Wed, May 19 2010. 07 57 AM IST
Updated: Wed, May 19 2010. 07 57 AM IST
United Nations: The United States handed the UN Security Council a draft resolution on Tuesday that would expand UN sanctions against Iran by hitting its banking and other industries for refusing to halt nuclear enrichment.
The 10-page draft, agreed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia after months of negotiations, also calls for international inspection of vessels suspected of carrying cargo related to Iran’s nuclear or missile programs.
The text, Western diplomats say, was the result of a series of compromises between the United States and its three European allies, which had pushed for much tougher sanctions against Tehran, and Russia and China, which sought to dilute them.
Few of the proposed measures are new. But Western diplomats said the end result was probably the best they could have hoped for, given China’s and Russia’s determination to avoid measures that might have undermined Iran’s troubled economy.
The decision to circulate the resolution to the 15-nation Security Council was a tacit rebuff to a deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey and made public on Monday in which Iran agreed to send some enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel rods for a medical research reactor.
US officials regard that deal as a maneuver by Iran to delay more UN sanctions.
Brazil’s UN ambassador made clear her country was unhappy that the United States and its allies appeared to ignore the deal that her country has described as a major breakthrough in the long-running nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.
“Brazil is not engaging in any discussion on a draft at this point because we feel that there is a new situation,” Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti told reporters outside the Security Council chamber. “There was an agreement yesterday which is a very important one.”
A Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not rule out discussions on the draft but said “our focus is on the other track” -- referring to the Tehran fuel swap deal.
But US Ambassador Susan Rice said the deal had “nothing to do” with the uranium enrichment that led to the threatened sanctions against Iran.
Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, however, spoke to his Turkish and Brazilian counterparts about the Iran nuclear issue and their nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran, China’s foreign ministry said on its website.
It said Yang told them that China appreciated their efforts and welcomed the nuclear fuel agreement. Yang said he “hopes that this (agreement) will help to promote peaceful resolution of the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations.”
Iran rejects Western allegations that its nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons. It says its atomic ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity and refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.
The draft resolution “calls upon states to take appropriate measures that prohibit” the opening of new Iranian bank branches or offices abroad if there is reason to suspect they might be aiding Iran’s nuclear or missile programs.
It also calls on states “to exercise vigilance over transactions involving Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran” to ensure that those transactions do not aid Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs.
It urges countries to be wary of dealing with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and says some members and companies it controls will be added to existing lists of individuals and firms facing asset freezes and travel bans.
The draft, which would represent a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran, calls for an expansion of an already existing arms embargo to include more types of heavy weapons.
Originally, the United States and the Europeans had hoped to impose a total arms embargo against Tehran and blacklist its central bank, but Russia and China had opposed those moves.
Although many of the measures in the resolution are non-binding, diplomats said the European Union and United States would treat calls for “vigilance” against Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and other firms as bans and would pass regulations that go beyond any new U.N. measures.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said one of the goals of the resolution “is to make it more difficult for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.”
Rice said the new resolution would make it more costly for Iran to continue to reject UN demands that it halt its enrichment program.
But she said the door was still open to Iran if it was ready to accept offers to resolve the crisis through dialogue. “The draft seeks to support, and not replace, our efforts to engage Iran diplomatically,” she said.
Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong told reporters Beijing was looking for a “well balanced” resolution and that his country did not expect its close trade ties to Tehran to be harmed.
“The purpose of sanctions is to bring the Iranian side to the negotiating table,” Li said. “The sanctions are not for punishing innocent people and should not harm normal trade.”
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said about the draft: “It’s language we can live with.” Both Churkin and Li welcomed the nuclear fuel deal announced on Monday.
Several Western diplomats said they hope the 15-nation council will vote on the resolution early next month.
The draft will likely be revised in the coming weeks.
Aside from Turkey and Brazil, council member Lebanon has made clear it would have trouble supporting sanctions against Iran. Lebanon, diplomats say, will likely abstain from a vote on the resolution because the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah is in its government.
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First Published: Wed, May 19 2010. 07 57 AM IST
More Topics: Iran | Nuclear | US | Britain | Germany |