Sunday, March 25, 2007

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council yesterday imposed additional sanctions on Iran, targeting banks and high-ranking officials in the Revolutionary Guards in an escalating face-off with the Islamic republic that continues to develop its own nuclear industry.

The council said in a resolution, passed unanimously during a rare Saturday meeting, that the latest measures could be lifted as soon as Iran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment and cooperate with international atomic inspections.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki rejected the council vote as an “unlawful, unnecessary, unjustifiable action against the peaceful nuclear program of the Islamic republic of Iran, which presents no threat to international peace and security and falls therefore outside the council’s mandate.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was to have attended the meeting, but a spokesman claimed that his flight crew had not received visas from the United States in time. Washington denies it was tardy in issuing visas.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff described Tehran as a leading sponsor of terrorism and noted that Iran had rejected an offer of assistance by the U.S. and Europe if it would accept council demands.

“Sadly, Iran continues to defy the will of the international community, the decisions of this council, and its obligations under international law,” Mr. Wolff said. “For this reason, it is entirely appropriate and necessary that we have adopted stronger measures to persuade the regime to make its country more secure by abandoning its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

He said the council will continue to incrementally increase pressure on Iran.

The resolution, the second set of sanctions from the council in three months, is a delicate lattice of carrots and sticks, woven over the last two weeks by diplomats at the 15-nation council.

The United States and Europeans wanted a strong set of conditions to compel Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Russia and China, which have extensive business ties with Tehran, were reluctant to accept tough measures.

Qatar and Indonesia, which are predominantly Muslim, also opposed harsh sanctions, as did South Africa.

The sanctions package adopted yesterday freezes the assets of 28 individuals and organizations, including Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, bankers and nuclear engineers.

The council also requests that governments “restrain” their sales of conventional arms to Iran, and monitor the international travel of Iranian government, military and nuclear-program officials.

The council imposed a first round of sanctions in December aimed at cutting off Iran’s access to technology, material and funds for its nuclear program, which Western nations fear is a cover for efforts to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons.

The nine-page resolution assures Iran that it has the right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes only, and urges Tehran and others to resolve their differences politically and diplomatically.

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