UN Imposes First Sanctions on Iran's Nuclear Program
By Bill Varner
Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations Security Council voted 15 to 0 to impose sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program for the first time, including a ban on acquisition of materials and technology that might be used to build an atomic bomb.
The measure demands that Iran halt uranium enrichment and heavy-water projects that the U.S. and its European allies have said may lead to the development of nuclear weapons. It freezes the financial assets of 12 named individuals and 11 groups such as the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
The resolution also requires the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to report on Iran's compliance within 60 days. ``Further appropriate measures'' such as economic penalties and severance of diplomatic relations will be required if Iran doesn't comply, it says.
``We are sending Iran an unambiguous message that there are serious repercussions to its continued disregard of its obligations and defiance of this body,'' U.S. Acting Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said. ``We look forward to Iran's full, unconditional and immediate compliance with this resolution.''
The vote, the result of more than two months of negotiations largely aimed at winning Russia's support, occurred as the U.S. and Britain are close to increasing naval power in the Persian Gulf in a display of military resolve, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified Pentagon and military officials.
``Russia views this resolution as a serious message being sent to Iran regarding the need more actively and more openly to cooperate with the IAEA to lift or resolve the remaining concerns relating to their nuclear program,'' Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. ``We hope that Iran will correctly and very seriously perceive the contents of this resolution and take the necessary measures to redress their situation.''
The Security Council action will likely add to tensions in the region and may contribute to rising oil prices in 2007, according to Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a New York-based organization that analyzes political risk for businesses. Iran is the second-biggest oil producer in the Middle East.
``Oil markets won't move very much on this resolution,'' Bremmer said. ``But we think Iran is one of the biggest risks out there and that there will be escalation of tensions in 2007 as Iran retaliates. They can disrupt markets by driving proxy wars in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.''
Senior Iranian lawmakers said today that their parliament might retaliate by blocking inspections by the IAEA, according to IRNA, the state-run Iranian news agency. Legislation to suspend inspections has been passed by the parliament's security and foreign affairs committee, the agency reported.
At the UN, Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif said suspension of enrichment activities was ``not a solution,'' that it was instead a ``temporary, stop-gap measure'' that didn't work from November 2003 to February 206. Without specifying how Iran would react to the vote, he said the ``days of bullying, pressure and intimidation by some nuclear-weapons holders are gone.''
Zarif said the Security Council was guilty of hypocrisy for taking no action against Israel after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared to confirm recently that Israel has nuclear weapons.
The U.S. and its European allies, Zarif said, which ``pushed this council to take groundless punitive measures against Iran's peaceful nuclear program, have systematically prevented any action to nudge the Israeli regime towards submitting itself to the rules governing the nuclear non-proliferation regime.''
Russia agreed to vote for the resolution after Britain, France and Germany dropped a proposed travel ban on Iranian officials and narrowed the scope of the trade embargo to ``proliferation sensitive'' materials and technology. An earlier version of the text, first circulated in October, would have banned any item that could contribute to Iran's nuclear or missile programs.
Nuclear Power Plant
The resolution's sponsors also deleted any mention of the Bushehr commercial nuclear power plant that Russia is helping Iran build. An earlier text would have barred delivery of fuel to the plant.
``It is an important symbolic move, but it is hard to see that this puts sufficient pain on Iran to compel it to do anything,'' said Bruce Reidel, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. ``At best, this is a warning shot across the bow of the Iranian state, a long way from authorizing the use of force.''
Iran ignored a July 31 resolution requiring it to suspend enrichment activities by Aug. 31, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pronounced ah-ma-deen-ah-ZHAD, has said his government will continue its nuclear program.
The resolution creates a Security Council committee to monitor implementation of the sanctions and calls on UN member nations to ``exercise vigilance'' regarding the international travel of the 12 Iranian officials and any ``specialized teaching or training'' of Iranian nationals.
UN member governments are to report to the committee within 60 days on steps they have taken to implement the resolution.
The sanctions would be suspended by Iran's decision to suspend enrichment activities and terminated by a report that the government in Tehran has complied with all UN Security Council and IAEA requirements.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in a conference call with reporters that the U.S. would follow the vote with new efforts to persuade other nations to enact the same type of financial and trade sanctions on Iran that the U.S. has had in place for 27 years.
``Russia and China tell us that want to deny Iran a nuclear weapons capability,'' Burns said. ``We want to see more vigorous action by them. We would like to see them stop selling arms to Iran and limit export credits to Iran. We think it is time to an end for business as usual.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Varner in the United Nations at wvarner_at_bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: December 23, 2006 13:02 EST