The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a new resolution reaffirming previous sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program and offering Tehran incentives to do so.
The speedy vote on Saturday followed a compromise between the United States and Russia to lead a new council effort to condemn Iran's nuclear program, without introducing any new sanctions. The brief resolution reaffirmed the three earlier Security Council sanctions resolutions, which imposed progressively tougher sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the council had restated its call for Iran to comply with the resolutions and cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"It is unacceptable for Iran to defy the security council resolutions," Khalilzad said.
Iran's mission to the United Nations immediately condemned the resolution as "unwarranted and unconstructive," and said Iran remained determined to exercise "its inalienable right for peaceful uses of nuclear technology."
Council members met behind closed doors earlier Saturday to hammer out the draft resolution.
The resolution was designed to send a signal that "our resolve has not weakened on this issue, that the discussions among our political directors about the next steps remain very much there," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.
Even envoys from countries that abstained in votes on the past resolutions said they supported the measure.
"Once a resolution is adopted by the Security Council, it is incumbent upon member states to comply with it," said Indonesia's UN Ambassador Marty Natalegawa.
He said Indonesia would reaffirm the need to comply with past measures against Iran, although Jakarta did not support them at the time and abstained on the last sanctions resolution adopted on March 3.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin noted that the new resolution restated that the dispute with Iran should be solved through diplomacy. He said earlier resolutions were carefully crafted to "avoid any military solution to the problem."
Existing sanctions include an asset freeze on 65 companies and individuals linked to Iran's nuclear program, and a travel ban on five people associated with Tehran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The sanctions also include bans on Iranian arms exports, supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs, and on trade in goods that have both civilian and military uses.
The latest resolution refers to the "dual-track approach" adopted by the council. This presents Iran with a choice of incentives to stop enriching uranium and, alternatively, threats of new sanctions if it does not comply.
The document also calls on Tehran "to comply fully and without delay, with its obligations" and meet IAEA's requirements. The incentives package put forth by the European Union in 2006 promised Iran political and economic assistance, including a pledge to help it fight drug trafficking from Afghanistan. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei warned Monday that he cannot determine whether Iran is hiding some nuclear activities, comments that appeared to reflect a high level of frustration with stonewalling of his investigators by the Iranians. Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful and designed to produce nuclear energy, but the US and Europeans suspect Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
The United States, Britain and France had been pressing for a new round of sanctions to step up pressure against Iran for its continuing refusal to suspend uranium enrichment as a prelude to talks on its nuclear program. But Russia and China objected to new sanctions.
Earlier this week, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused "a few bullying powers" of trying to thwart the country's legitimate nuclear program. Ahmadinejad said that Tehran needs the ability to produce nuclear fuel because it cannot rely on other nations to supply enriched uranium to the Islamic regime's planned reactors.
Enrichment can turn uranium into the fissile material used in nuclear warheads. But it can also be used to generate power and is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.