Major Powers Agree On Sanctions To Pressure Iran

Friday, March 16th 2007, 7:39 am
By: News On 6

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Six major powers sent a strong signal to Iran that they remain united in seeking to rein in its nuclear ambitions, compromising on a sanctions package to step up pressure on the Islamic republic to suspend uranium enrichment.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to ignore any sanctions and said the Security Council has ``no legitimacy.'' Yet he asked to speak to the U.N.'s most powerful body before it votes on the package, which is likely to be approved unanimously given it already has support from five veto-wielding members _ the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

Thursday's agreement on the sanctions package culminated more than two weeks of negotiations that included Germany. While the proposed package is modest, the six nations regarded it as a success because of the difficulty they have had coming to terms on Iran in the past.

South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the current council president, said the 10 council members not involved in the negotiations would need time to consider the proposed sanctions. A vote is not expected before late next week.

Kumalo said U.N. rules require the council to consider Iran's request to address the council before its vote. The council will take up the request on Friday, he said.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that as a U.N. member, Iran ``should have a right to participate in any deliberations of any organization of the United Nations.''

The proposed sanctions would ban Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of 28 individuals and organizations involved in the country's nuclear and missile programs. 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.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear arsenal. Iran denies the charge but refuses to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a nuclear weapon.

Tehran's defiance also provoked U.N. sanctions in December, when the Security Council 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.

``These threats won't have one iota of effect on the strong will of the Iranian nation,'' Ahmadinejad said at a rally Thursday in the central city of Meibod. ``You 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 U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report to the council in 60 days on whether Iran has suspended its enrichment activities.

``In 60 days from now if we have no answer, we will have more sanctions,'' said French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

While the United States and the Europeans wanted tougher measures, they knew only a modest package would win over Russia and China, which have strong commercial ties with Iran.

``We would like to see the entire council on board,'' acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff 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 of the individuals are top officers of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and three of the organizations are affiliated with the elite military corps, 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 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 U.N. committee on those who show up.