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Iran: UN Security Council Expected To Vote On Sanctions Against Tehran

Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant (file photo) (AFP) December 23, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The UN Security Council is to vote today on a resolution imposing sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear program. The resolution demands Tehran end all uranium-enrichment work -- which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants and bombs -- and halt research and development that can make or deliver atomic weapons.

Britain, France, and Germany made some revisions to the draft resolution on December 22.

How Will Russia Vote?

Meanwhile, diplomats close the talks say that Russia is not expected to receive final instructions until President Vladimir Putin meets early today with his security advisers.

Under the resolution, the council would end the sanctions if Tehran suspended "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development."

Moscow’s envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, tried to clarify Russia’s concerns in an address to reporters at the UN on December 22.

"But we must make sure that perfectly legal, innocent activities which have nothing to do with a risk of nuclear proliferation can proceed normally," he said. "This is our interest."

Russia is concerned about a provision calling for a freeze on the foreign financial assets of 11 people and 12 organizations from Iran associated with its nuclear program. The aim of the freeze is to prevent these people and groups from buying dangerous materials.

Objections To The List

Russia, as Churkin sought to make clear, says it does not oppose an asset freeze in principle but wanted a council sanctions committee to determine which names should be on the list.

"We have never had an objection to assets freeze per se," he said.

But Western nations feared such a move could make an assets freeze meaningless. Anything sent to a sanctions panel could take months to determine -- and needs the approval of all 15 council members.

The main part of the sanctions is a prohibition on the import and export of dangerous materials and technology relating to uranium enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy-water reactors, as well as ballistic-missile delivery systems.

Iran has vowed to continue its nuclear program, which it says is for peaceful uses only, even if the resolution is adopted with the approval of Russia. Moscow is building an $800 million light-water reactor for Tehran at Bushehr that is exempted in the resolution.

Residents of Tehran, interviewed by Reuters today, were bracing for the resolution, which is a reaction to Iran's failure to comply with an August 31 UN deadline to suspend uranium-enrichment work and to resume negotiations with the international community.

Prepared In Tehran

Tehran's Ali Javadi said Iranians would be ready. "Naturally, [Westerners] would impose sanctions because they want to put pressure on us, and definitely the sanctions will have a bad effect and result for Iran, but it is nothing new," he said.

Mehran Zare, another resident of the Iranian capital, said sanctions won’t resolve the impasse.

"I think the only way is negotiations and both sides can reach a good result through talks, especially Iran has said that its activities are peaceful," Zare said. "I don't think that this issue would be sorted out with sanctions."

Under the resolution, the council would end the sanctions if Tehran suspended "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development."

But if Iran refuses, the council will consider further measures, according to the draft text.

What Would Sanctions Mean?

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.