Thursday, June 10, 2010
U.N. adopts new sanctions against Iran
In a diplomatic setback, the U.S. fails to win unanimous support for latest round of sanctions approved by the U.N. Security Council. Turkey and Brazil voted against the measures meant to punish Iran for its nuclear program, and Lebanon abstained. Paul Richter, Tribune Washington Bureau The United Nations Security Council approved a new round of sanctions Wednesday to punish Iran over its nuclear program, but U.S. officials and their allies failed in a last-minute bid to adopt a resolution without opposition. While 12 of the 15 members approved the new strictures, Turkey and Brazil voted against them, and Lebanon abstained. The absence of unanimity represented a setback to the U.S. and its Western allies, which had hoped to demonstrate solid world opinion against Tehran and its continuing expansion of its nuclear program. Iran insists the nuclear program is intended for development of civilian energy, but U.S. officials and many world leaders charge Iran is seeking an atomic weapons capability. The Brazilian ambassador to the Security Council, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, said before the vote that Brazil does not consider sanctions "an effective instrument in this case." In recent weeks, Turkey and Brazil had mounted a diplomatic effort to strike a deal with Iran to avert the vote. But to their frustration, other world powers rejected their effort as insufficient to deal with their concerns about the Iranian program. China and Russia voted in favor of the sanctions resolution after expressing reservations in the months leading up the vote. After the vote, the U.S ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, portrayed the latest round of sanctions as the strongest yet. "Today, 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 Non-Proliferation Treaty," she said. Nonetheless, many critics have said the sanctions had to be watered down to win Russian and Chinese votes, and represent only a modest tightening of three previous measures. The sanctions tighten a range of restrictions on Iran's nuclear industry, arms sales, and its economy. The sanctions resolution adopted Wednesday hits 40 enterprises and a scientist tied to the nuclear program with asset freezes and a travel ban. Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran specialist at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the significance of the sanctions "is more political than economic." He said that support for the new sanctions from China and Russia "prevents Iran from framing this as a struggle between the Islamic world and the West." Lebanon abstained because its government has been whipsawed by countervailing pressures. The militant group Hezbollah is prominent in the country's government. At the same time, though, the weak central government receives significant amounts of aid from the West. The split vote is likely to expose the Obama administration to criticism. Some observers believe the administration bungled the run-up to the vote by appearing to give Turkey and Brazil a green light to pursue their diplomacy. That initiative undermined the West's efforts to isolate the Iranian regime. Paul Saunders of the Nixon Center think tank in Washington said that because the sanctions' import was symbolic, the clumsy handling of it by the administration "is all the more problematic." The vote came hours after the U.S., Russia and France formally rejected the Brazilian and Turkish diplomatic effort in a statement at the U.N.'s watchdog nuclear agency in Vienna.