U.S., Allies Agree to Drop Proposed Iran Travel Ban

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 10, 2007

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- U.S., British, French and German diplomats agreed in a closed-door meeting Friday to drop a proposal to impose a mandatory travel ban on Iranian officials linked to the country's most sensitive nuclear activities, Security Council diplomats said.

The concession was aimed at securing Russian and Chinese support for a Security Council resolution that would further penalize Iran for its refusal to halt its enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

The Security Council has been pressing Iran for nearly a year to suspend those nuclear activities and begin talks with the council's major powers about the dispute. In December, the 15-nation council voted unanimously to restrict Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and to freeze the assets of 22 Iranian officials and institutions.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last month that Tehran had ignored a Feb. 21 Security Council deadline to halt its operations. As Iran presses ahead with an industrial-scale nuclear enrichment program, the council's major powers have been unable to agree on a common response.

Iran maintains it needs to enrich its own uranium to guarantee a secure source of nuclear fuel for its civilian power plants.

The United States and its European allies had initially proposed imposing an arms embargo on Tehran; banning travel by select Iranian officials; restricting billions of dollars in government-approved export credits to companies that trade with Iran; and expanding the list of individuals and institutions targeted by sanctions to include one of Iran's largest banks, Bank Sepah, and the top commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Russia and China resisted those measures, saying they would complicate negotiating a political pact on Iran's nuclear activities. They have insisted that sanctions target only a narrowly focused group of individuals linked to Iran's most controversial nuclear programs.

"The Chinese's main difficulty is with the financial and trade sanctions against Iran," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said after a 2 1/2 -hour meeting at the British mission to the United Nations. He said they would hurt ordinary Iranians. "We should punish the Iranians for their activities in the nuclear field."

Wang said Russia has also pressed to have members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps removed from the list.

"Russia has difficulty with the name of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, "because they feel it's an institution in Iran and you don't have to penalize an institution," he said.

The United States and its European allies agreed to settle for a provision that would require states to notify the United Nations when select Iranian officials and scientists arrived in their countries.

Diplomats said that China and Russia have been more receptive to Western calls for a ban on Iranian arms exports, as long as Tehran can keep buying arms from countries such as Russia.

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