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U.N. Security Council passes more sanctions against Iran

The vote, which was 14 in favor with one abstention, comes amid some indications that sanctions are being felt by Iranian elites.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 4, 2008



UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday passed a third set of sanctions targeting Iran for its pursuit of uranium enrichment, a process the international community fears could lead to development of a nuclear weapon.

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In response, Iran promised to press forward with its nuclear program, including uranium enrichment, saying it "cannot and will not accept a requirement which is legally defective and politically coercive." The unbowed commitment to perfecting the enrichment process practically guarantees that Iran's nuclear program will remain at the top of the international security agenda.

The Council voted 14 in favor, with one abstention from rotating Council member Indonesia. It was a better outcome for the Council’s big powers than the numerous abstentions or even negative votes they were anticipating even a week ago.

The resolution includes new financial measures against specific Iranian individuals and institutions, provisions for inspecting certain Iranian vessels and aircraft, and restrictions on the sale of some dual-use materials to Iran. It is considered an "incremental" increase in pressure on Tehran to halt its enrichment program, according to US officials, and is not expected to force a quick change of heart by Iran.

In a statement following the vote on behalf of the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States, China, and Russia, Britain's ambassador to the UN, Sir John Sawers, said the resolution reflects the "ongoing serious concerns about the proliferation risks of the Iranian nuclear program." The statement also reiterated the six powers' offer to provide Iran with incentives in exchange for halting its nuclear enrichment program.

But in a long speech to the Council as it prepared to vote, Mohammad Khazaee, Iranian ambassador to the UN, insisted that Iran would never bow to "unlawful action against a proud and resolute nation."

That statement only confirmed the view held by many Western officials that Iran has not altered its activities as a result of international diplomatic action. "We have the impression nothing has really changed on the goals being pursued [in Iran]" since the first set of sanctions was approved in December 2006, says a senior European diplomat who requested anonymity to comment on a delicate international issue.

That is not the view of Indonesia, however, whose 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 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he said.

Still, the vote comes amid indications that the UN sanctions, along with separate measures taken by the US, are being felt by Iranian elites. Even Ambassador Khazaee acknowledged an impact in comments to the UN press last week.

"The sanctions are biting somewhat," adds the senior European official, "and they are biting in ways we want them to."

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