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4th set of sanctions slapped on Iran

World powers yesterday slapped new military and financial sanctions on Iran aiming to rein in its suspect nuclear program, but stressed that the door remains open for talks.

world Updated: Jun 10, 2010 12:07 IST

World powers on Wednesday slapped new military and financial sanctions on Iran aiming to rein in its suspect nuclear program, but stressed that the door remains open for talks.

A US-drafted resolution was adopted by 12 votes in favor in the 15-member Security Council, with Lebanon abstaining and Brazil and Turkey voting against.

Though swiftly hailed by the United States, Britain and France who co-sponsored the resolution, the move drew an immediate, scornful reaction from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"These resolutions are not worth a dime for the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad, who earlier threatened to suspend negotiations with six major powers if the sanctions were imposed, told ISNA news agency in Tajikistan.

He said he had told world powers "that the resolutions you issue are like a used hanky which should be thrown in the dust bin."

US President Barack Obama however said Iran now faced the "toughest-ever" sanctions regime, which sent "an unmistakable message about the international community's commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons."

But the US leader, who has offered to resume dialogue with Tehran, stressed: "These sanctions do not close the door on diplomacy. Iran continues to have the opportunity to take a different and better path."

Despite the backing of Russia and China, it was one of the least supported of the four Iran sanctions resolutions adopted at the United Nations. It expands an arms embargo and bars the country from sensitive activities such as uranium mining.

It authorizes states to conduct high-sea inspections of vessels believed to be ferrying banned items for Iran and adds 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.

Tehran maintains its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful civilian purposes, while the Western nations have charged that Iran is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Israel, Iran's arch-foe, welcomed the new sanctions, but said more needed to be done to stop Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons.

The foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany meanwhile stressed that their dual-track approach -- pressure through sanctions alongside negotiations -- remained in effect.

"The aim of our efforts is to achieve a comprehensive and long-term settlement which would restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, while respecting Iran's legitimate rights to the peaceful use of atomic energy," they said in a statement.

China and Russia both backed the sanctions but only after months of hard-nosed bargaining in which they watered down the resolution to protect their substantial energy and economic interests in Iran.

Western powers had initially pushed for crippling sanctions that would have notably targeted Iran's oil industry.

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said the aim of the resolution was to coax Iran back to the negotiating table and persuade it to fulfill its obligations as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Sanctions can never fundamentally resolve," he said, stressing the measures could be suspended or even lifted if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

And Russia said a package of economic and energy incentives offered by six major powers to Iran, in exchange for halting uranium enrichment, remained on the table.

The sanctions "should not do undue damage" to the Iranian economy and the Iranian people, stressed Russian envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin.

Japan said early Thursday it supported the fresh sanctions but still hoped for a diplomatic solution.

"It becomes important that the international community firmly implements the UN Security Council resolution and works towards a peaceful and diplomatic solution for the nuclear issue and demands Iran make a prudent decision," Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said in a statement.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton's office said the resolution "keeps the door open for continued engagement" between world powers and Iran.

"Sanctions are not the endgame or the final solution," the EU statement said. "We hope that today's decision will bring Iran to the negotiating table."

The resolution was approved despite efforts by Brazil and Turkey to head off the measures and promote a nuclear fuel swap deal they reached with Tehran last month, which had been coolly received by the six major powers.

Wednesday's vote was delayed for more than an hour as the ambassadors of Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon awaited instructions from their governments, before deciding to attend.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva later slammed the new sanctions as a "Pyrrhic victory" -- a success that comes with a massive burden to the victors -- and said the move "weakened the UN Security Council."

Lebanon had earlier indicated it could not support the resolution due to domestic political considerations, a reference to the presence of the powerful, Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the Lebanese government.