TEHRAN (Reuters) - A close ally of Iran’s president denounced as illegitimate on Wednesday a draft U.N. resolution which would expand sanctions against Tehran because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
The text, agreed by all five permanent Security Council members after months of negotiation, targets Iranian banks and calls for inspection of vessels suspected of carrying cargo related to Iran’s nuclear or missile programs.
“The draft being discussed at the United Nations Security Council has no legitimacy at all,” Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s senior adviser Mojtaba Samareh-Hashemi as saying.
Western diplomats say the text was the result of a compromise between the United States and its three European allies, which had pushed for much tougher sanctions against Tehran, and Russia and China, which sought to dilute them.
Few of the proposed measures are new. But Western diplomats said the end result was probably the best they could have hoped for, given China’s and Russia’s determination to avoid measures that might have undermined Iran’s troubled economy.
The decision to circulate the resolution to the 15-nation Security Council on Tuesday was a rebuff to a deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey in which Iran agreed to send some enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel rods for a medical research reactor.
Iran and the two countries which brokered the swap deal urged a halt to talk of further sanctions. But the United States and its European allies regard the deal as a maneuver by Iran to delay their efforts to increase pressure on Tehran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki expressed surprise on Wednesday when asked about the draft resolution.
Asked by a Reuters reporter what Iran’s reaction would be, Mottaki said in English: “Are you sure?” After an assurance that major powers had agreed the draft, Mottaki said: “Don’t take it serious”. He then walked away.
It was not clear whether Mottaki had not seen the draft or whether he was dismissing it. He was attending a meeting in the Tajik capital Dushanbe of foreign ministers from the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
BRAZIL UNHAPPY WITH DRAFT
Brazil made clear it was unhappy that the United States and its allies appeared to ignore the deal that it has described as a major breakthrough in the long-running nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.
“Brazil is not engaging in any discussion on a draft at this point because we feel that there is a new situation,” Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti told reporters on Tuesday. “There was an agreement yesterday which is a very important one.”
A Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not rule out discussions on the draft but said “our focus is on the other track” -- referring to the Tehran fuel swap deal.
But U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the deal had “nothing to do” with the uranium enrichment that led to the threatened sanctions against Iran.
Iran rejects Western allegations that its nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons. It says its atomic ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity and refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.
The draft resolution “calls upon states to take appropriate measures that prohibit” the opening of new Iranian bank branches or offices abroad if there is reason to suspect they might be aiding Iran’s nuclear or missile programs.
It also calls on states “to exercise vigilance over transactions involving Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran” to ensure that those transactions do not aid Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs.
It urges countries to be wary of dealing with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and says some members and companies it controls will be added to existing lists of individuals and firms facing asset freezes and travel bans.
The draft, which would represent a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran, calls for an expansion of an already existing arms embargo to include more types of heavy weapons.
The draft will likely be revised in the coming weeks.
Aside from Turkey and Brazil, council member Lebanon has made clear it would have trouble supporting sanctions against Iran. Lebanon, diplomats say, will likely abstain from a vote on the resolution because the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah is in its government.
Additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov and Guy Faulconbridge; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Myra MacDonald
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