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U.S., partners agree to sanctions on Iran

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday the United States and its partners in the U.N. Security Council have agreed on a package of strong new sanctions to impose on Iran over its suspect nuclear program.

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By Glenn Kessler and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The United States reached agreement Tuesday with Russia, China and other major powers on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would modestly expand and stiffen sanctions on Iran for its failure to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

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The 10-page resolution in many ways falls short of the Obama administration's stated objective to impose "crippling sanctions" on Iran, but it gives new momentum to the sanctions push one day after Turkey and Brazil -- two junior Security Council members -- swooped in with their own deal with Iran to forestall new penalties on the Islamic republic.

Among other measures, the resolution would expand an asset freeze and travel ban against individuals and entities linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. A critical element still to be negotiated is a list of those names.

The resolution would establish an embargo on large weapons systems such as battle tanks, combat aircraft and missiles -- a previous U.N. resolution called on nations only to "exercise vigilance and restraint" in such trade -- but would not include the comprehensive arms embargo sought by the United States and France. Iran could continue to buy light weapons.

'An answer' to Tehran

"This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken by Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide," said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who finalized the deal and its announcement Tuesday morning in a phone call with her Russian counterpart. "We don't believe it was any accident that Iran agreed to this declaration as we were preparing to move forward in New York."

But Brazilian and Turkish officials were outraged at Clinton's announcement just one day after they had secured a pledge from Iran to ship some of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Turkey. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations, denounced the U.S. move, saying that Brazil "will not engage on any draft resolution" and that there "is still room for negotiations."

The reaction signified potential difficulties ahead in winning unanimous approval for the resolution. Three previous sanctions resolutions on Iran were approved without any "no" votes -- usually, a draft agreement among the five permanent members of the council faces little opposition from the 10 rotating members -- and anything less than that would represent a fracturing of international unity on Iran.

"The United States just slapped Turkey and Brazil in the face and spit on them afterwards," said Mohammad Marandi, head of the North American studies department at Tehran University, whose views on the nuclear issue are close to those of Iran's leaders. "Iran is rational, but the U.S. is throwing a tantrum."

With U.S. key partners

The Obama administration and its key partners on Iran -- Britain, France and Germany -- have always made clear that U.N. action would be the weakest of three steps intended to force Iran to return to negotiations on its nuclear program. Those other steps include a European Union resolution and then tough unilateral sanctions by individual countries.

But nothing can happen without the imprimatur of a new U.N. resolution, because some European countries will not act on sanctions without U.N. approval. Diplomats said that some of sanctions were proposed with the full knowledge they would be removed by the Russians and Chinese -- but then could be revived in an E.U. resolution. Individual country sanctions could follow, and would be led by the United States and like-minded nations.

The draft cites recent Iranian activities, such as the construction of an undisclosed nuclear facility near Qom and the enrichment of uranium to levels of nearly 20 percent, and reaffirms previous Security Council demands that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and fully cooperate with International Atomic Energy Agency. It also stresses that penalties would be lifted if Iran halts banned nuclear activities.

The draft specifically says that nothing in it should be construed as allowing the "use of force or the threat of force."

The resolution would establish a "framework" for inspections of suspect cargo at sea or in ports. Vessels would be inspected if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe they are carrying banned goods, but there is no mandatory requirement that Iranian vessels suspected of carrying banned materials be boarded.

Moreover, financial institutions that establish "reasonable grounds" to believe Iranian banks or other firms are evading sanctions are called upon to block any financial transactions, including the issuance of insurance or reinsurance, related to banned proliferation activities. Countries are obligated to require their nationals to "exercise vigilance" in business dealings with Iranian firms.

The Obama administration failed to win approval for key proposals it had sought, including restrictions on Iran's lucrative oil trade, a comprehensive ban on financial dealings with the Guard Corps and a U.S.-backed proposal to halt new investment in the Iranian energy sector.

Lynch reported from the United Nations. Correspondent Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran contributed to this report.


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