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UN Security Council Backs New Iran Sanctions

UN Security Council members raise their hands in the June 9 vote to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities.

UN Security Council members raise their hands in the June 9 vote to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear activities.

The United Nations Security Council has approved a package of economic sanctions aimed at punishing Iran over its suspect nuclear program.

Twelve members of the Security Council voted "yes," while Brazil and Turkey opposed the resolution and Lebanon abstained.

The UN has now imposed four rounds of sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities since 2006.

The West suspects Tehran is using its civilian nuclear program to hide enrichment activities aimed at developing a nuclear weapons, which the government denies.

Speaking at the White House following the vote, U.S. President Barack Obama said the UN's action "demonstrates the growing costs that will come with Iranian intransigence."

"These are the most comprehensive sanctions that the Iranian government has faced. They will impose restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program and, for the first time, its conventional military. It will put a new framework in place to stop Iranian smuggling and crack down on Iranian banks and financial transactions," Obama said.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, speaking in Dushanbe, called the UN's move "a futile slap."

He said he had told one member of the Security Council: "Your resolutions against us are like futile slap. It is only garbage. Despite, thank God, their inability to hit the Iranian nation, we are evaluating their logic. Today, the political scene became a scene of deception, a scene of lies, a scene of aggression, a scene of expansion."

Ahmadinejad called the notion that Iran is planning to develop a nuclear weapon a "pretext" for punishment, which he said is "meaningless for the Iranian nation."

Diplomacy Still An Option

The passage of new sanctions represents a victory for the White House in its efforts to convince the international community that Iran has failed to live up to its international treaty obligations and chosen a path of defiance.

But even as he acknowledged that 'actions have consequences' Obama said Iran can still chose a different fate.

"We know that the Iranian government will not change its behavior overnight. But today's vote demonstrates the growing costs that will come with Iranian intransigence," he said. "I want to be clear: these sanctions do not close the door on diplomacy. Iran continues to have the opportunity to take a different and better path."

At the UN, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the Security Council "has responded decisively to the grave threat to international peace and security posed by Iran's failure to live up to its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."

"We are at this point because the government of Iran has chosen clearly and willfully to violate its commitments to the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and the resolutions of this council," Rice said. "Despite consistent and long-standing demands by the international community, Iran has not suspended its uranium enrichment and other proliferation activities."

The package of penalties targets Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, ballistic missiles, and nuclear-related investments. It also authorizes states to seize suspected cargo ships and ban exports of helicopters and battle tanks to Tehran.

But it doesn't impose severe economic punishments or an embargo on oil shipments, which are Iran's chief source of income.

Watered Down

The version that passed was weaker than an original draft submitted by the United States last month because Russia and China -- two permanent members with veto power -- insisted on compromises.

Iranian UN envoy Mohammad Khazai (second from left) at the UN Security Council session on June 9

The two "no" votes -- Turkey and Brazil -- brokered a fuel-swap agreement with Iran last month which they hoped would address concerns Tehran may be enriching uranium for nuclear weapons and avoid new sanctions. The West dismissed the deal as too little, too late.

Brazilian Ambassador to the UN Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti said Brazil does not view sanctions "as an effective instrument in this case."

"Sanctions will most probably lead to the suffering of the people of Iran and will play into the hands of those on all sides that do not want dialogue to prevail," she told the council. "Past experiences in the UN, notably the case of Iraq, show that the spiral of sanction threats and isolation can result in tragic consequences."

Turkish Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said the fuel swap deal Tehran agreed to last month should have been given more time to work before a vote on sanctions was taken.

"The Tehran Declaration provides a new and important window of opportunity for diplomacy," Apakan said. "Sufficient time and space should be allowed for its implementation. We are deeply concerned that adoption of sanctions will negatively affect the momentum created by the declaration and the overall diplomatic process."

Looking For 'Pragmatism'

UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant read out the text of a statement that was agreed on by the foreign ministers of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and supported by the European Union's high representative.

"We, the foreign ministers of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our determination and commitment to seek and early, negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue," Grant said.

The statement says the aim of the five countries' efforts is to "achieve a comprehensive and long-term settlement which would restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, while respecting Iran's legitimate rights to the peaceful use of atomic energy."

It also said the group expects Iran "to demonstrate a pragmatic attitude and to respond positively to our openness towards dialogue and negotiations."

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the resolution "keeps the door open for continued engagement" between the international powers and Iran.

compiled from RFE/RL and agency reports