Thursday 15 March 2007

Big powers agree on Iran sanctions

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Ambassadors from six major powers announced an agreement on Thursday to impose new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programs and sent the text to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council for a vote.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, dismissed any new U.N. sanctions resolution as a "torn piece of paper" that would not stop Tehran's nuclear work.

The measure, which may be adopted next week, would penalize Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. Enriched uranium can be used in nuclear bombs or for peaceful ends.

The major-power agreement includes a ban on Iranian arms exports, an assets freeze on individuals and firms involved in Tehran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and a call to nations and institutions to bar new grants or loans. A copy of the document was obtained by Reuters.

"We have confirmed we have an agreement on the text," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry announced after consultations with his counterparts from the United States, France, Russia, China and Germany.

"The United Kingdom will introduce that text," he said.

Alejandro Wolff, a U.S. ambassador told reporters, "I'm satisfied with the compromise outcome," which was sent to governments of the six countries on Wednesday night.

"There are lots of things that we would have wanted handled differently," he said, "I think that's a fair statement that would apply to every member."

The new measures follow a resolution adopted in December that imposed trade sanctions on Iran's sensitive nuclear materials and technology, and froze the assets of some Iranian individuals and companies. Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful uses only, ignored a February 21 deadline to suspend enrichment or face further action.

A key new element is a new list of individuals and entities subject to financial sanctions, such as firms owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corp. and the state-owned Bank Sepah.

The text says Iran is banned from exporting any conventional weapons. But the measure calls on states to "exercise vigilance and restraint" in shipping any heavy weapons to Tehran.

The measure would suspend the sanctions if Iran complies with the council's demands within 60 days. If Tehran does not, further action would be considered.

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