Tags: Iran | Sanctions | Delay

U.N. Iran Sanctions Delayed by OPEC Block

Friday, 29 Feb 2008 02:59 PM

By Stewart Stogel

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UNITED NATIONS -- White House plans to install a new round of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend a controversial uranium enrichment program hit a roadblock Thursday.

Washington had expected the 15-member Security Council to agree on the final wording of a draft resolution Thursday evening, with a formal vote on its adoption Friday. Thursday evening, the first word of delay came from U.S./U.N. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad who told reporters, "We will vote on the resolution Saturday."

That "revised" game plan has now been unexpectedly shelved. Rather than reach a consensus, Indonesia (a non-permanent member) raised new questions about the validity of any additional sanctions. Those "concerns" were echoed by Libya, Vietnam and South Africa.

Iran has insisted its nuclear program is for "peaceful" purposes. The U.S., backed by France and the UK, contend the program could easily be diverted for military use and wants it stopped. The Council had set a deadline for Iran to comply. It was over six months ago.

Not only has Iran defied the Council, but expanded its prohibited activities, says the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA-UNatomic watchdog). While Washington is believed to be "receptive" to some minor "adjustments" on the tone of the resolution, the U.S. and the otherperm-5 members (UK, France, Russia and China) are expected hold firm on the issue of sanctions itself.

Council diplomats tell NewsMax that the U.S. has the required 9 yes votes and no veto to get new sanctions approved. UK diplomats tell NewsMax that at least 11 members will vote yes, but will still try to boost the yes votes more as a symbolic, than substantive effort.

It was also pointed out that Indonesia and Libya, two of the Council members who have stalled the U.S. effort are, like Iran, OPEC members. Vietnam and South Africa are both net oil importers and their economies have been hard hit by the rapid rise in energy prices, diplomats pointed out.

It is suspected that Iran has been dangling subsidized energy contracts to get some Council members to vote no on new sanctions. For the last week, Iran's U.N. mission has been lobbying hard behind the scenes to thwart the Council's actions. This has included several private "lunches" with reporters to put forward Iran's position.

The net result has been a collective effort by the Council Perm 5 to put the sanctions to a formal vote and let the "group of 4" vote no, if they so wish. With a formal vote now expected early next week, Iran will see new import-export controls on items that could have anuclear-military application. New restrictions will be imposed on Iranian banks, as well as on the travel of certain Iranian officials.

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