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Iran’s nuclear program still trying to overcome international sanctions

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UNITED NATIONS — International sanctions are “constraining” Iran’s capacity to purchase supplies and equipment to develop nuclear and ballistic missile technology, but Tehran continues to actively seek way to overcome the measures, according to a new United Nations report.

The report, which was conducted by an eight-member panel of experts and has been delivered to the U.N. Security Council, is the most comprehensive assessment yet of international efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic. Its findings paint a mixed picture of the sanctions’ impact.

“Sanctions have clearly forced changes in the way in which Iran procures items,” according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “At the same time, Iran’s circumvention of sanctions across all areas, in particular front companies, concealment methods in shipping, financial transactions, and the transfer of conventional arms and related materiel, is willful and continuing.”

The 79-page report notes that most documented cases of Iranian violations of a U.N. arms embargo have involved Syria, Iran’s closest Middle East ally. It also documents the role played by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian entities in seeking to work around international sanctions.

The Iranian government is subject to a wide range of U.S., U.N. and European sanctions designed to compel Tehran to halt its enrichment of uranium and other nuclear activities, and to freeze its development of ballistic missiles. For its part, Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons and has rejected foreign demands to curtail its nuclear program, which it insists is for domestic energy production.

The report notes that Iran continues to pursue prohibited nuclear enrichment programs and to “test missiles and engage in prohibited procurement” activities related to those programs. Some details of the report were first reported by the Associated Press.

In an illustration of the impact of sanctions, the panel detailed one case in which Singaporean officials seized a Chinese shipment of aluminum powder — a “dual use” material that has applications in manufacturing but that the report said was most likely to be used in Iran for banned solid missile propellant.

The bulk of the panel’s work focused on Iran’s conventional arms trade. The panel carried out extensive inspections into six incidents of alleged arms Iranian violations, including a Nigerian seizure in October 2010 of hundreds of tons of rockets, mortar shells, grenades and other ammunition on a ship docked in Lagos. “The arms shipment originated in Iran, as confirmed by the Iranian Foreign Minister and confirmed by documentary evidence, and was a violation” of U.N. sanctions, according to the report.

The panel called on the 15-nation council to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on two Iranian nationals, Ali Akbar Tabatabesi, Azim Aghajani, and an alleged Tehran-based front company, Behineh Trading Co., linked to the shipment.

The U.N. Security Council has already imposed targeted financial and travel restrictions on 75 entities and 41 individuals, citing their links to prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile program. But the latest round would represent the first time that the council is considering sanctioning individuals caught in a specific violation the sanctions.

In addition, the panel cited several alleged Iranian arm shipments destined for Syria, included two vessels stopped and searched at sea by U.S. and Israeli authorities. The panel also has an ongoing investigation into an alleged shipment of ammunition from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to the Taliban.

© The Washington Post Company