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. UN Security Council set to adopt Iran sanctions
UNITED NATIONS, March 3 (AFP) Mar 03, 2008
The UN Security Council was set to tighten sanctions on Iran Monday, in its latest bid to force Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment that the West fears is aimed at securing a nuclear weapon.

The 15-member council was scheduled to hold consultations from 10:30 am (1530 GMT) Monday ahead of the vote to adopt a third sanctions resolution which was slightly amended by its Western sponsors late Friday.

The vote, initially planned for Saturday, was delayed until Monday to give the sponsors more time to try to win over four reticent council members: Indonesia, Libya, South Africa and Vietnam.

The four non-aligned countries see the sanctions as counter-productive, fearing they might push the Islamic republic to break off cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.

Adoption of the text is a foregone conclusion as it has already been endorsed by the five veto-wielding members of the council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

And co-sponsors Britain and France have enough support among the 10 non-permanent members to ensure passage, which requires nine votes and no veto.

But they said they ideally would like unanimous support in order to send a strong and united signal to Tehran that it must suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing within three months or face additional sanctions not involving the use of force.

The West fears the know-how gained from uranium enrichment could give Iran the capability to build nuclear weapons.

But the Islamic republic, which adamantly refuses to halt enrichment work, insists its nuclear program is peaceful and geared only toward production of electricity.

The draft includes an outright ban on travel by officials involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programs, and broadens a list of individuals and entities subject to an assets freeze.

It calls for inspections of shipments to and from Iran if there are suspicions of prohibited goods and urges states to "exercise vigilance" in entering into new commitments for public-provided financial support for trade with Iran, including the granting of export credits.

It also urges vigilance in dealing with "all banks domiciled in Iran, in particular Bank Melli and Bank Saderat and their branches and subsidiaries based abroad."

The two previous sets of sanctions against Iran were adopted unanimously by the Security Council in December 2006 and March 2007.

On Thursday, Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers said the co-sponsors were prepared "to go the extra mile ... to get as much support as possible" for the draft.

US President George W. Bush said Saturday that the international community was "serious about continuing to isolate Iran until they come clean about their nuclear weapons ambitions" and "that's why there will be action in the United Nations here early next week."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, accused the United States of bringing terrorism to the Middle East.

But the West still has to convince Indonesia, Libya, South Africa and Vietnam, which note that a recent IAEA report spoke of progress in Iran's efforts to come clean on past nuclear activities.

At the request of Vietnam, the sponsors inserted in their latest draft a sentence reiterating the council's "determination to reinforce the authority of the IAEA" and "strongly supporting the role of the IAEA board of governors" in the Iranian nuclear dossier.

But it was unclear whether this would be enough to sway Indonesia, whose UN Ambassador Marty Natalegawa hinted Thursday that he might abstain during the vote. Libya might do the same, some diplomats said.

The draft opens the door to negotiating a way out of the nuclear standoff on the basis of a package of economic, energy and diplomatic incentives offered Iran in 2006 in exchange for a freeze on its uranium enrichment.

The council vote is to coincide with the start of the IAEA board of governors's regular March meeting in Vienna where Iran's nuclear dossier will face detailed scrutiny.

IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei found in his report last month that while Tehran had cleared up most of the outstanding questions on its past nuclear activities, it was still refusing to address allegations about its purported work on nuclear weapons.

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