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Iran sanctions vote signals a global rift

Some developing nations may be starting to sour on push by world powers to control lucrative nuclear technology.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 5, 2008

Voting: On Monday, 14 members of the Security Council supported the passage of a third resolution against Iran. Indonesia abstained.

David Karp/AP


United Nations, N.Y.

The passage this week by the United Nations Security Council of a third set of sanctions against Iran places a spotlight on two trends in the international community's dispute with Tehran's nuclear program.

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Perhaps most striking is the relative retreat by the United States from leading status among Iran's accusers, with European powers taking over the helm.

But there is also an emerging rift between some of the world's developing countries and the big developed powers at the forefront of the effort to impose punitive measures against Tehran. For countries like Indonesia, South Africa, and Libya, which questioned the timing of the new resolution, Iran's claim of victimhood at the hands of arrogant world powers seeking to control access to vital and lucrative technologies may be starting to resonate.

The mixed views of some developing countries were reflected in the Council vote. At 14 yeas and one abstention, it marked a retreat from the unanimous vote achieved on the second Iran resolution, which was approved last year. (The first resolution, approved in 2006, passed on a 14-to-1 vote, with Qatar voting "no.")

The abstention Monday came from Indonesia. In a Western-powers push at the end of last week to avoid other abstentions or "no" votes, language noting Iran's cooperation on the nuclear issue over recent months was added at the insistence of other developing countries.

"South Africa does not want to see [either] a nuclear Iran or a country denied peaceful technology," said Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa's ambassador to the UN, in a postvote statement. Ambassador Kumalo said South Africa, which once threatened to vote "no" or abstain, voted "yes" based on Iran's failure to comply with earlier resolutions.

But reflecting the view of other rotating Council members, including Vietnam and Indonesia, Kumalo said South Africa would have preferred to put off the vote and leave further deliberations on the Iranian nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog.

In a statement, Iran played to concerns of developing countries that the world's developed powers seek to prolong their control of top lucrative technologies. "No country … can solely rely on others to provide it with the technology and materials that are becoming so vital for its development and for the welfare of its people," said Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's ambassador to the UN. "Peoples across the globe have lost their trust in the Security Council" and see it as the work of "a few powers to advance their own agenda," he added.

The months-long debate over the merits of a third resolution, and the way in which the resolution was watered down to achieve passage, suggest the degree to which developing countries fear that the UN process could lead to military strikes against Iran.

Indonesia's ambassador to the UN, R.M. Marty Natalegawa, said it abstained to express how the resolution did not reflect the "mixed picture" of Iran's cooperation with international agencies. The resolution risks rendering Iran even less cooperative with the IAEA, he said.

The Security Council passed the third set of sanctions against Iran over its pursuit of uranium enrichment, a process the international community fears could lead to development of a nuclear weapon. In response, a defiant Iran promised to press forward with its nuclear program, including uranium enrichment. Iran "cannot and will not accept a requirement which is legally defective and politically coercive," Ambassador Khazaee said in a speech to the Council before the vote.

More starch in UN sanctions

December 2006: United Nations Security Council first imposes sanctions, ordering all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also orders countries to freeze the assets of 10 Iranian companies and 12 individuals.

March 2007: Security Council votes to toughen sanctions after Iran expands its enrichment program. It bans Iranian arms exports and orders countries to freeze the assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations.

March 2008: The Council's third resolution, approved Monday, does the following:

•Introduces monitoring of two banks with suspected links to proliferation activities, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat.

•Calls on all countries "to exercise vigilance" in entering into new trade commitments with Iran.

• Orders countries to freeze the assets of 12 additional companies and 13 individuals linked to Iran's nuclear or ballistic-missile programs.

•Bans travel abroad by five individuals linked to Iran's nuclear effort.

•For the first time, bans trade with Iran in goods that have both civilian and military uses and authorizes inspections of shipments to and from Iran by sea and air that are suspected of carrying banned items.

– Compiled by Howard LaFranchi using Associated Press and Reuters reports