U.N. Votes to Impose Sanctions on Iran

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The sanctions — watered down at Russia's insistence — require member states to freeze the assets and monitor the travel of individuals linked to Iran's nuclear program. Iran rejected the measures.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. Debbie Elliott is away.

The U.N. Security Council adopted some limited sanctions against Iran today to pressure that country into giving up its nuclear ambitions. The sanctions resolution was two and a half months in the making and watered down to appease Russia.

Still, Iran is rejecting the resolution and promising to push ahead with its controversial nuclear activities.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns says the sanctions resolution puts Iran in some bad company.

Mr. NICHOLAS BURNS (Undersecretary of State): It's a big spotlight. It is going to be humiliating for Iran. I use that word advisedly. The Iranians have launched a pretty vigorous international campaign over the last few months to prevent this from happening.

KELEMEN: The resolution requires Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities which the U.S. believes are part of a secret weapons program. U.N. members must now freeze the assets and monitor any travel by individuals and businesses linked to Iran's nuclear program.

Iran has already rejected the resolution. Its ambassador to the U.N., Javad Zarif, accused the Security Council of having a double standard.

Mr. JAVAD ZARIF (Iranian Ambassador to the U.N.): The same governments which have pushed this council to take groundless punitive measures against Iran's peaceful nuclear program have systematically prevented the Council from taking any action to nudge the Israeli regime towards submitting itself to the rules governing the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

KELEMEN: Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program is peaceful, and Zarif blasted U.S. intelligence, which he said is based on a misunderstanding of Iranian intentions.

Mr. ZARIF: The sponsors tell you that they do not trust our intentions, but the problem is that their intentionometer has a rather abysmal record of chronic malfunction.

KELEMEN: Diplomats at the U.N. brushed off Zarif's complaints. They say it's time for Iran to restore trust if it wants to resolve the nuclear standoff and get out from under the sanctions. U.S., European, Russian and Chinese officials say their offer of talks with Iran is still on the table if Iran suspends controversial nuclear activities.

Maintaining international unity has been frustrating at times, as Undersecretary Burns acknowledged in a telephone conference with reporters today.

Mr. BURNS: This resolution was hard fought. It took two and a half months of very intense and often very frustrating negotiations among the capitals and up in New York. We obviously, we the United States, have a more tough-minded approach than, say, Russia.

KELEMEN: Russia, which is building a light water reactor in Iran, made sure that its project was exempted in the resolution and it had other sanctions watered down. Russia's ambassador to the U.N., Vitali Churkin, said he simply wanted to make sure the resolution didn't hinder legitimate business.

Mr. VITALI CHURKIN (Russian Ambassador to the U.N.): We were trying to make sure that this resolution does reflect what is a basic international, legal principle, and that is that what is not prohibited is permitted.

KELEMEN: The Bush administration, though, would actually like to see more dealings with Iran prohibited. Undersecretary of State Burns said the U.S. isn't putting all of its eggs in the U.N. basket and will now try to persuade Japan, the European Union and others to take tougher action and encourage banks to cut off lending to Iran.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News. Washington.

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