U.N. Security Council Approves New Sanctions on Iran Over Its Nuclear Program

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday approved new sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program that target Iran'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 non-permanent council members, brokered a fuel-swap agreement with Iran which they hoped would address concerns Tehran may be enriching uranium for nuclear weapons and avoid new sanctions.

Brazil's U.N. Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti said sanctions would lead to "suffering" by the Iranian people, delay dialogue on the country's nuclear program, and run contrary to Brazil and Turkey's efforts to engage Tehran.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham 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.

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 its program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy.

The U.S. and its allies believe Iran's real aim is to produce nuclear weapons and want Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and start negotiations on it nuclear program.

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 powerful 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 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.

China and Russia have strong economic ties with Iran and last week Russia's 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 not 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 Iran's proposal to swap some of its enriched uranium for fuel for a research reactor in Tehran which was brokered by Brazil and Turkey.

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.

A European Union statement also criticized Iran for stonewalling attempts to probe its nuclear activities and refusing to heed U.N. Security Council demands for a freeze on enrichment, which can make both nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material.

But his Iranian counterpart, Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the meeting that "illegal resolutions" by the council will not stop his country from exercising its "legitimate right to develop its nuclear program."