New Sanctions a "Significant Rebuke" to Iran, State's Burns Says

By Judy Aita
USINFO United Nations Correspondent

United Nations - The unanimous Security Council vote to impose new, substantial sanctions on Iran is "a significant international rebuke" and represents a tightening of international pressure on the country for its failure to suspend its uranium enrichment program and begin negotiations, a senior U.S. official says.

The new resolution "is going to leave Iran even more isolated than it has been" and makes it one of only 11 countries out of the 192 U.N. member states under Chapter 7 sanctions, Under Secretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said in a telephone interview after the March 24 U.N. Security Council vote.  (See related article.)

"International patience with Iran is wearing thin," Burns said.  "You're seeing the expression of frustration" at Iran's refusal to negotiate over the last two years.

Prior to the vote, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad had said he wanted to address the Security Council, and the United States provided the more than 75 visas he and his entourage needed.  However, the president did not attend the session.  Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki represented his country instead.

The unanimous vote of the 15-nation Security Council on U.N. Resolution 1747 included those of Indonesia, the world's largest predominantly Muslim country; Iran's gulf neighbor Qatar; and South Africa, a leader in the nonaligned movement, he noted.

The permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Current nonpermanent members are Belgium, Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Italy, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Slovakia and South Africa.

Russia was "a very, very good partner" in getting the new sanctions, Burns said.  He also noted Russia's decision to delay construction of and the delivery of fuel to the Bushehr reactor in Iran.

"The Iranians thought they could kind of take Russia or try to divide Russia and China from the U.S. and Europeans.  That strategy has clearly failed," Burns said.

According to Burns, the inclusion of the provision prohibiting Iran from providing weapons to any individual or organization and calling on nations to exercise "vigilance and restraint" in exporting arms to Iran was a primary objective for the United States during negotiations on the measure.

The United States sees Iran "as a problem not just in the nuclear sphere but also as a purveyor of arms to major Middle East terrorist groups and ... of money to them," Burns said.

"We see [Iran] trying to become the most dominant military state in the region.  They're using their arms supply relationship with Hezbollah and Hamas, with the PFLPGC [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command], with Palestinian Islamic Jihad ... to really negative ends and negative results," he continued.

The resolution also recommends nations and international financial institutions refrain from providing financial assistance, grants or concessional loans to Iran, except for humanitarian and development purposes.  This provision "opens up the door" for future action on the issue of export credits, the under secretary said.

"We've already seen Italy, France, Germany, and Japan significantly reduce their export credits to Iran over the last four to five months," he noted.

According to Burns, India, Brazil, and Egypt already are implementing the initial sanctions imposed in December 2006 by U.N. Resolution 1737, which requires nations to freeze the assets of individuals and entities identified as having a key role in Iran's nuclear program, prohibits countries from supplying Iran with dual-use equipment and bars Iran from exporting any nuclear weapons-related equipment or technology to other countries. (See related article.)

The only nations that "speak up" for Iran are Syria, Belarus, Venezuela and Cuba - "quite a gang of four," the under secretary said.  "Everybody else is part of this international effort that is slowly strangulating [Iran's] ability to seek investment and to export."

A transcript of Burns' remarks is available on the State Department Web site.