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Iran Faces Stiffer U.N. Sanctions
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Iran Faces Stiffer U.N. Sanctions

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Iran Faces Stiffer U.N. Sanctions

Iran Faces Stiffer U.N. Sanctions
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The U.N. Security Council votes to toughen sanctions on Iran, which is being punished for refusing to halt its uranium-enrichment programs. The measures approved Saturday include a ban on exports of firearms.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

And now to the United Nations, where the Security Council has unanimously voted to tighten sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program.

Here's British Ambassador Emyr Jones Perry.

Ambassador EMYR JONES PERRY (British Ambassador to the United Nations): The resolve of the council is clear: Iran must make its choice.

NPR's Michele Keleman is at the U.N. and joins me now. Michele, how are these new sanctions different from the ones passed back in December, and what is the Security Council hoping to achieve with them?

MICHELE KELEMAN: Well, it adds a couple of different elements. First of all, there's an asset freeze for 28 individuals and entities, and this now includes a state-owned Iranian bank and also several commanders of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. There's also, interestingly enough, an Iranian - a ban on Iranian arms exports.

And the U.S. considers this a key element of it because the U.S. accuses Iran of arming terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas and they are hoping that this can go after that. So it doesn't only deal with the nuclear issue. It's also dealing with U.S. allegations that Iran is supporting terrorism.

Now, what U.S. and European diplomats say, this is all part of their strategy to step up the pressure on Iran - they call these, you know, incremental and reversible steps - to get Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities within 60 days or face more sanctions. And the idea is, if you suspend, then we'll suspend the sanctions.

ELLIOTT: Now, we'd expected that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would address the U.N., but he did not come in the end. Why not?

KELEMEN: Well, Iranian officials say he called off his trip because the flight crew members didn't get their visas in time. The U.S. denies that. They said they issued 75 visas for this delegation; he had time to come, and that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just didn't want to feel the heat or face the heat in the Security Council.

Who ended up coming was the foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, and it was interesting because he didn't go there in time for the beginning. And I'm told he wasn't even in the chamber when they voted. He came rushing in after the session had started, waited until he was called up to speak to go into the chamber, and basically said, you know, we're not going to change our policies because of threats of intimidation and pressure from the West.

ELLIOTT: Now, as the Security Council voted, Iran was holding 15 British marines and sailors for allegedly entering Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf illegally. How did that affect today's debate?

KELEMEN: Well, the British ambassador didn't mention it at all in his statement on the floor. He's - all week - I mean the past couple of days really been saying this is not linked to the nuclear issue. We don't want this linked, but we're going to use every chance we can to make our case that these 15 sailors and marines should be released.

I was talking to a spokesman earlier in the day, and he was saying, yeah, of course, if the foreign minister comes, we're going to use this opportunity to continue saying this and to put pressure on Iran to release these people. But he didn't even know if the foreign minister was going to be here. So now that he's here, I'm sure there will be some backroom pressure.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Michele Kelemen at the United Nations. Thank you.

KELEMEN: You're welcome, Deb - Debbie.

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U.N. Stiffens Sanctions Against Iran

Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Wang Guangya and German counterpart Thomas Matussek talk. i

Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Wang Guangya and German counterpart Thomas Matussek talk before a U.N. Security Council meeting on broader sanctions against Iran. Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Wang Guangya and German counterpart Thomas Matussek talk.

Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Wang Guangya and German counterpart Thomas Matussek talk before a U.N. Security Council meeting on broader sanctions against Iran.

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously voted Saturday to impose new sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium — a move intended to show Tehran that defiance will leave it increasingly isolated.

The moderately tougher sanctions include banning Iranian arms exports, and freezing the assets of 28 people and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

About a third of those are linked to the Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.

"This resolution sends an unambiguous signal to the government and people of Iran ... that the path of nuclear proliferation by Iran is not one that the international community can accept," said British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry.

In December, the 15-member Security Council ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also ordered a freeze on assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.

Iran has vowed the sanctions will only motivate it further to pursue nuclear power, a message Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was expected to deliver to the Security Council. Mottaki made the trip instead of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who claimed he canceled his appearance because the U.S. failed to deliver his visa in time. The U.S. said it had issued the visa promptly.

Raising tensions, Iran detained 15 British sailors and marines Friday in what it said were Iranian territorial waters near Iraq. The British sailors and marines had been on a mission to search for smugglers in Iraqi waters.

The six world powers that drafted the new resolution spent Friday trying to overcome objections from several council members, reflecting concerns that anything short of consensus would weaken efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear defiance.

There were several minor concessions but no changes to the key sanctions agreed upon last week by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.

The new sanctions — already a compromise between the stronger measures favored by the United States and the Europeans and the softer approach advocated by Russian and China — are considered modest. The ban on exports is among the harshest measures, but many of Iran's arms sales may not be affected because they are illicitly sent to militant groups like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Iraq.

Still, world powers hoped that approving the resolution quickly and unanimously would signal that Iran will face stricter sanctions each time it ignores a Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to produce nuclear energy or nuclear weapons. Iran responded to the first set of sanctions in December by expanding enrichment.

Tehran says it will never give up its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel, though it has offered to provide guarantees that its nuclear program won't be diverted toward weapons, as the U.S. and some of its allies fear.

Iranian leaders kept up their defiant rhetoric in the days leading up to the vote, with Ahmadinejad calling the Security Council illegitimate and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting Iran would pursue nuclear activities outside international regulations if faced with more sanctions.

The new resolution calls for voluntary restrictions on travel by the individuals subject to sanctions, on arms sales to Iran, and on new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.

It asks the International Atomic Energy Agency to report back in 60 days on whether Iran has suspended enrichment and warns Iran could face further measures if it does not. But it also says all sanctions will be suspended if Iran halts enrichment and makes clear that Tehran can still accept a package of economic incentives and political rewards offered last year if it complies with the council's demands.

After the latest resolution met with surprising resistance from several elected Security Council members, a reference was inserted to a past resolution from the IAEA calling for the Middle East to be free of weapons of mass destruction. Indonesia and Qatar had wanted the council to make that appeal outright, but that would have had implications for Israel, a U.S. ally widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, though it has never officially acknowledged it.

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