U.N. Imposes New Sanctions On Iran The U.N. Security Council has approved new sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program, targeting the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles and nuclear-related investments.
NPR logo U.N. Imposes New Sanctions On Iran

U.N. Imposes New Sanctions On Iran

The U.N. Security Council approved new sanctions over Iran's suspect nuclear program on Wednesday, targeting the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles and nuclear-related investments.

The resolution imposing a fourth round of sanctions against Iran was approved by a vote of 12-2, with Lebanon abstaining and Brazil and Turkey voting "no."

Turkey and Brazil, both nonpermanent council members, had earlier brokered a fuel-swap agreement with Iran that they hoped would address concerns that Tehran may be enriching uranium for nuclear weapons and avoid new sanctions.

"In our view, the adoption of new sanctions by the Security Council will delay rather than accelerate or ensure progress in addressing the question," said Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Brazil's ambassador to the U.N.

The U.S., Russia and France formally responded to the Turkey-Brazil deal only Wednesday, saying, among other things, that the deal didn't account for the fact that Iran is enriching uranium to higher levels now in violation of previous U.N. resolutions. The timing of that formal response was one reason that Turkey voted against the resolution, Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said.

"That it has been sent on the day of the adoption of the sanctions resolution had a determining effect on our position," he said.

Iran Lashes Out Against 'Hostile Actions'

Iran's U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee defended his country's right to produce nuclear energy, and accused the United States, Britain and their allies of abusing the Security Council to attack Iran.

"No amount of pressure and mischief will be able to break our nation's determination to pursue and defend its legal and inalienable rights," Khazaee said. "Iran is one of the most powerful and stable countries in the region and never bowed -- and will never bow -- to the hostile actions and pressures by these few powers, and will continue to defend its rights."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the sanctions the toughest ever, but the measures are still far short of crippling economic punishments or an embargo on oil shipments, Iran's prime money earner.

"These sanctions are as tough as they are smart and precise," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said after the vote, dismissing Khazaee's statement as "ridiculous" and "reprehensible."

The Security Council imposed limited sanctions in December 2006 and has been ratcheting them up in hopes of pressuring Iran to suspend enrichment and start negotiations on its nuclear program. The first two resolutions were adopted unanimously, and the third by a vote of 14-0 with Indonesia abstaining.

Iran has repeatedly defied the demand and has stepped up its activities, enriching uranium to 20 percent and announcing plans to build new nuclear facilities. Tehran insists that its program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy.

But President Obama said in a statement that Iran hasn't been able to convince the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog of that.

"We recognize Iran's rights, but with those rights come responsibilities, and time and again, the Iranian government has failed to meet those responsibilities," Obama said.

The New Sanctions

The new resolution bans Iran from pursuing "any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons," bars Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining, and prohibits Iran from buying several categories of heavy weapons, including attack helicopters and missiles.

It imposes new sanctions on 40 Iranian companies and organizations -- 15 linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, 22 involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities, and three linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. That more than doubles the 35 entities now subject to an asset freeze.

The resolution also adds one individual to the previous list of 40 Iranians subject to an asset freeze -- Javad Rahiqi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran's Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center. Under its provisions, all 41 individuals are now also subject to a travel ban.

The resolution also calls on all countries to cooperate in cargo inspections -- which must receive the consent of the ship's flag state -- if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe the cargo could contribute to the Iranian nuclear program.

On the financial side, it calls on but does not require countries to block financial transactions, including insurance and reinsurance, and to ban the licensing of Iranian banks if they have information that provides "reasonable grounds" to believe these activities could contribute to Iranian nuclear activities.

Keeping The Door Open For Engagement

China and Russia have strong economic ties with Iran, and last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying in Beijing that the resolution would protect the economic interests of both countries.

China's U.N. Ambassador Zhang Yesui said after the vote that the sanctions were aimed at curbing nonproliferation and would neither affect "the normal life of the Iranian people," nor deter their normal trade activity.

The new resolution was hammered out during several months of difficult negotiations by the five veto-wielding permanent council members -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France -- and nonmember Germany, who have been trying for several years to get Iran into serious discussions on its nuclear ambitions.

The five permanent council members, in a statement after the vote, stressed that the resolution "keeps the door open for early engagement" with Iran. It welcomed and commended "all diplomatic efforts, especially those by Brazil and Turkey."

But in Vienna, three diplomats said the U.S., Russia and France dismissed the deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey, in which Iran would swap some of its enriched uranium for fuel for a research reactor in Tehran.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the replies were private, said they contain a series of questions that in effect stall any negotiations on the issue and present Tehran with indirect demands that it is not ready to meet.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed receipt of the three-nation response and said it would be passed on to Tehran.

The U.S., Russia and France have said that unlike the original plan drawn up eight months ago, the swap proposal would leave Iran with enough material to make a nuclear weapon.

NPR's Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.