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Iranian President Asks To Attend UN Sanctions Vote --> Mahmud Ahmadinejad delivering a speech on March 15 (Fars) March 16, 2007 -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has formally asked to attend a UN Security Council meeting during which the council will vote on new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

MORE: Coverage in Persian from Radio Farda.

South Africa's UN ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, president of the Security Council for March, said the council will have to decide whether to grant the request.

The United States said today it will approve Ahmadinejad's visa request so that he can visit the United Nations in New York.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States has aproved a visa for Ahmadinejad previously and will do so again, consistent with its obligations as the UN's host country.

A vote on the new sanctions, aimed at punishing Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, is expected next week. A draft resolution has been agreed by the five veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and China.

On March 15 in Iran, Ahmadinejad dismissed the Security Council as having no legitimacy, and said UN and Western pressure would not stop Iran from acquiring nuclear technology.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff noted Ahmadinejad's remarks in comments to journalists on March 15.

"I find it again ironic that a president, who is quoted today saying that he tears up Security Council resolutions and has no respect for what the council does, is interested in coming to speak to the council," he said.

(compiled from agency reports)

What Would Sanctions Mean?

Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)

MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."


Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 60 minutes):
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THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's coverage of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.