UN set to give approval for new round of Iran sanctions

After months of delicate diplomacy the United States is on the brink of ushering in a fourth round of punitive UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear enrichment programme.

Passage of the sanctions resolution through the UN Security Council would be a moment of reckoning for Iran. Just as the US has worked tirelessly to make it happen, Tehran has spared no effort to stop it. Sources said that the measures, aimed at further isolating the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were likely to be approved later today.

"This is a more robust set of sanctions than we've ever had on Iran," insisted Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the UN. "One of the reasons we think these sanctions will hurt is that the Iranians have been fighting so hard to defeat them."

Diplomats expect a 12-to-3 vote in the council with non-permanent members Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon siding against the resolution. Despite months of reluctance, Russia and China appeared ready to cast "yes" votes. Both governments are normally disinclined to support sanctions. Additionally they have extensive economic ties with Iran. For months, Washington has been quietly briefing world leaders and foreign ministers on why it believes Iran is lying when it says its nuclear programme is purely civilian in purpose.

"In all, it is impressive that the draft survived so close to its original form and that it has continued to move ahead speedily with the support of China and Russia. Ambassador Rice deserves a raise," said Jacqueline Shire, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Science and International Security.

Still, even last night China was negotiating to limit the number of financial entities to be identified in annexes to the text. A compromise would see only one Iran bank actually named, the Export Bank of Iran. "It is better than having nothing, which is what we feared might have been the case," said one Western source.

The main text seeks to broaden the impact of existing UN sanctions. It would enhance an arms embargo by banning the export of most forms of heavy weaponry, encourage countries to stop and inspect ships and aircraft bound for Iran if there is any suspicion that their cargo might be tied to the nuclear industry, and more specifically focus measures on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the elite military wing.

For President Barack Obama, passage of the resolution cannot come too soon. He originally set the end of last year as a deadline for new sanctions on Iran. However, the vote is coming at a moment when tensions in the region are already extremely high as Iran squares off against Israel over its continuing blockade of Gaza. There may be some risk that the vote in New York will convince Iran to step up its anti-Israel rhetoric and maneouvering.

The endless cycle of international confrontation continues, meanwhile, to serve some useful domestic purposes for President Ahmadinejad who will portray the UN vote as a fresh attack on Iran and its sovereignty engineered by its foes – the US and Israel. All these events help him distract the Iranian people from problems at home.

Amnesty International drew attention yesterday to the first anniversary of the unrest in Iran that followed last year's disputed re-election of Mr Ahmadinejad, noting that the regime has stepped up its political repression with large numbers of dissidents including lawyers and journalists remaining in prison.

"The Iranian government is determined to silence all dissenting voices, while at the same time trying to avoid all scrutiny by the international community into the violations connected to the post-election unrest," noted Claudio Cordone, the interim secretary general of Amnesty International.

The sanctions vote, meanwhile, threatened to eclipse all other business at a regional summit in Istanbul last night attended by Iran, Russia and the host, Turkey. Mr Ahmadinejad exposed his anger at Russia's support for the package. "There is no big problem, but they must be careful not to be on the side of the enemies of the Iranian people," he said of the Russians. He was later to have bilateral talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

And while the draft UN text invites Iran to negotiate a diplomatic settlement, Mr Ahmadinejad signalled that would be off the table should sanctions pass. "If the US and its allies think they could hold the stick of sanctions and then sit and negotiate with us, they are seriously mistaken," he said.

The sanctions package is weaker than the Americans originally wanted. However, the UN vote is likely to be followed by the imposition of additional unilateral sanctions against Iran by both the US and the European Union.

The sanctions would...

* Significantly expand restrictions on arms sales to Iran to include eight new categories including tanks, fighter planes and missile systems.

* Impose a new ban on Iran investing in industries relating to the mining and enriching of uranium abroad. Likewise, Iran investment in missile-development industries overseas is banned. This is a new element included because of efforts by Iran to invest in mining operations in Zimbabwe and work with Syria developing missiles.

* Introduce a regime to encourage UN countries to stop and search any vessels or aircraft travelling to and from Iran suspected of carrying goods related to its nuclear efforts.

* Contain annexes that would include lists of new Iranian entities and individuals to be blacklisted.

* Impose measures against any Iranian bank suspected of having financial ties to Iran's nuclear programme. This includes a call on member states to desist doing business with any Iranian banks suspected of supporting nuclear effort.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable