UN votes for trade sanctions on Iran over nuclear fears

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The United Nations Security Council agreed unanimously to impose a first round of technical and trade sanctions on Iran yesterday for refusing to answer demands that it suspend all enrichment of uranium, believed by most foreign governments to be aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

All the Security Council members voted in favour, after two months of often tricky negotiations. In the end, a compromise text drafted at the eleventh hour by European ambassadors satisfied Russian and Chinese reservations over taking too harsh a stance against Iran.

The Council first began to consider penalties after Iran ignored a 31 August deadline to comply with conditions set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to demonstrate that its nuclear programme was restricted to the production of energy, as it has claimed.

Iran denounced the vote as "invalid" and "illegal", and vowed to continue its nuclear programme. Earlier, Iran's parliamentary speaker, Gholamali Haddad-Adel, warned of retaliation. "If they intend to deprive the Iranian nation of its nuclear technology by a resolution, parliament will reconsider the nature of its relationship with the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.

But Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, said last night she would push for further steps to isolate Iran if it continues to ignore the IAEA requirements. She noted that in the summer Britain and other European governments offered Iran incentives to open its nuclear programme to scrutiny. She urged Iran to take this "positive path", adding: "But Iran should be in no doubt that if it does not take the steps required to establish that its programme is peaceful, the Security Council is determined to act."

The sanctions include provisions to block the supply to Iran of any technology or equipment that could be used in nuclear and missile programmes. Foreign countries will also be barred from offeringrelevant technical, training or financial assistance. The resolution imposes an asset freeze and other restrictions, too, on 12 Iranians identified as involved in nuclear activities, as well as on 11 institutions and companies.