23 December 2006 Capping months of intensive negotiations, the United Nations Security Council today unanimously decided to impose a set of sanctions against Iran in response to its uranium-enrichment activities, which Tehran says are for peaceful purposes but which other countries contend are driven by military ambitions.
The adoption of the sanctions resolution – immediately rejected by Iran – came after successive reports by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based global nuclear watchdog, indicating its inability to certify that the country's motives are entirely peaceful. Agency Director-General Muhamad ElBaradei has said the IAEA is unable to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.
Iran has not suspended all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities or taken a number of other steps required by the Council to build confidence, the resolution noted.
Iran's nuclear programme has been a matter of international concern ever since the discovery in 2003 that it had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Today's resolution calls for steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors, including re-establishing full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and ratifying and implementing the Additional Protocol, which grants the IAEA expanded rights of access to information and sites, as well as additional authority to use the most advanced technologies during the verification process.
The Security Council decided today that Iran must suspend the “proliferation sensitive nuclear activities,” including all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and work on all heavy water-related projects. Both these steps are to be verified by the IAEA.
The Council banned trade with Iran of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to the country's enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities, or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.
States are also required to prevent the provision to Iran of any technical assistance or training, financial assistance, investment, brokering or other services, and the transfer of financial resources or services, related to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture or use of the prohibited items, materials, equipment, goods and technology.
The Council called on all States “to exercise vigilance regarding the entry into or transit through their territories of individuals who are engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran's proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.”
The resolution contains a list of persons and entities involved with Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes that are subject to a freeze on their financial assets, with some exceptions built in. It also established a new Committee to monitor compliance with its terms, add to the lists and rule on any exemptions.
The IAEA Director-General was requested to report within 60 days to the Council on whether Iran has suspended uranium enrichment activities. If that report shows that Iran has not complied with the resolution, the Council threatens “further appropriate measures.”
At today's Council session, Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif delivered a lengthy rebuttal of the premise for imposing the sanctions, and argued that this action represented only the latest in a decades-long history of bias against Iran.
“Bringing Iran's peaceful nuclear programme to the Council by few of its permanent members, particularly the United States, is not aimed at, nor will it help, seeking a solution or encouraging negotiations. Even their stated objective has always been to use the Council as an instrument of pressure and intimidation to compel Iran to abandon its rights,” he said.