Page last updated at 00:46 GMT, Tuesday, 4 March 2008

UN approves new sanctions on Iran

Members of the UN Security Council vote through new sanctions on Iran on Monday
The vote had been delayed to allow extra lobbying by its sponsors

The UN Security Council has voted in favour of new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

Fourteen of the council's 15 members voted in favour of measures including asset freezes and travel bans for Iranian officials. Indonesia abstained.

Western powers suspect Iran may be developing nuclear weapons, but Iran says its nuclear programme is for energy generation only.

Tehran has refused to comply with demands that it stop enriching uranium.

This can be undertaken for power generation, but may also be a precursor to building an atomic bomb.

Imposes travel bans on five Iranian officials
Freezes foreign assets of 13 Iranian companies and 13 officials
Bans sale of dual-use items to Iran
Urges governments to withdraw financial backing from firms trading with Iran, inspect cargo going into and out of the country, and monitor the activities of two Iranian banks
Requests IAEA to report on whether Iran has complied with demand to suspend uranium enrichment
If not, threatens further sanctions

This third sanctions resolution - formally submitted by France and Britain - adds to resolutions adopted in 2006 and 2007.

It calls for the foreign assets of 13 Iranian companies to be frozen, and imposes travel bans on five Iranian officials.

It bans the sale to Iran of so-called dual-use items - which can have either a military or civilian purpose.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan at the UN says the measures are lowest-common-denominator sanctions that even China and Russia - who maintain closer links with Iran than the Western powers - would support.

Both China and Russia are permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council.

Iranian anger

December's national intelligence estimate by the US, which concluded Iran probably shelved its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, undermined efforts to make these sanctions tougher, says our correspondent.

The resolution received the backing of all five permanent members - which include France, Britain, and the US.

The non-permanent members all backed it, except Indonesia, which said it remained to be convinced of the need for sanctions.

Iranian ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazee addresses the Security Council prior to Monday's vote
Peoples around the world consider the actions of the Security Council as the result of the political pressure exerted by a few powers
Mohammad Khazee
Iranian ambassador to UN

In a statement before the vote, Iran's envoy to the UN, Mohammad Khazee, described the resolution as politically motivated, illegal, and illegitimate.

He insisted Iran's nuclear programme "has been, is, and will remain, absolutely peaceful" - and said Iran would ignore the sanctions.

Mr Khazee said the council's action was not supported by most of the UN's 192 member states, nor most people, who viewed "the actions of the council as the result of the political pressure exerted by a few powers to advance their own agendas".

But the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said it was "just too dangerous for the world to accept this government having access to production of fissile material and getting close or acquiring a nuclear weapons capability".

Offer renewed

In remarks to reporters, the British ambassador to the UN, John Sawers, said the permanent council members would ask EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to meet Iran's chief nuclear negotiator to try to resolve the impasse.

The sanctions on Iran have not been successful in stopping Iran from uranium enrichment
Nastaran, Canada

He restated an offer made in 2006 to assist Tehran with its civilian nuclear programme, in exchange for the suspension of uranium enrichment.

Israel's foreign ministry said the resolution was "an unequivocal message that the international community cannot accept Iran's defiant nuclear programme".

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported in February that Iran had cleared up most of the outstanding questions regarding its past nuclear activities.

But the IAEA has criticised Iran for refusing to clarify remaining questions about intelligence suggesting Tehran may have been exploring ways to "weaponise" nuclear materials.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, has dismissed the intelligence as "forged and fabricated".

He said in Vienna after a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board that "all the outstanding issues have been concluded".

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