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Security Council unanimously approves sanctions on Iran

Bans the nation's arms exports and ices some assets

Ambassadors Emyr Jones Parry of Britain and Alejandro Daniel Wolff of the United States voted yesterday to expand sanctions against Iran at a UN Security Council meeting. (MARY ALTAFFER/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to impose new sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium, a move intended to show Tehran that defiance will leave it increasingly isolated.

The moderately tougher sanctions include banning Iranian arms exports and freezing the assets of 28 people and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

About a third of those are linked to the Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.

In December, the 15-member Security Council ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs. It also ordered a freeze on assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.

"This resolution sends an unambiguous signal to the government and people of Iran . . . that the path of nuclear proliferation by Iran is not one that the international community can accept," said Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of Britain.

Iran has vowed the sanctions will only motivate it further to pursue nuclear power, a message Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was expected to deliver to the Security Council. Mottaki was made the trip instead of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said he canceled his appearance because the United States failed to deliver his visa in time.

Raising tensions, Iran detained 15 British sailors and marines Friday in what it said were Iranian territorial waters near Iraq. The British sailors and marines had been on a mission to search for smugglers in Iraqi waters.

The six world powers that drafted the resolution spent Friday trying to overcome objections from several council members, reflecting concerns that anything short of consensus would weaken efforts to rein in Iran.

There were several minor concessions but no changes to the key sanctions agreed upon last week by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany.

The new sanctions, already a compromise between the stronger measures favored by the United States and the Europeans and the softer approach advocated by Russian and China, are considered modest.

The ban on exports is among the harshest measures, but many of Iran's arms sales may not be affected because they are illicitly sent to militant groups.

Still, world powers hoped that approving the resolution quickly and unanimously would signal that Iran will face stricter sanctions each time it ignores a Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to produce nuclear energy or nuclear weapons. The council imposed its first set of sanctions in December, but Iran responded by expanding enrichment.

Iran says it will never give up its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel, though it has offered to provide guarantees that its nuclear program won't be diverted toward weapons, as the United States and others fear.

Ahmadinejad had said he wanted make those arguments before the Security Council himself, but Iran accused the United States of thwarting his planned trip by delaying the delivery of his visa.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the visa arrived in plenty of time and suggested the Iranian president was "unwilling to stand before the council and take the heat for his continued defiance of the international community."

Iranian leaders kept up their defiant rhetoric in the days leading up to the vote, with Ahmadinejad calling the Security Council illegitimate and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggesting Iran would pursue nuclear activities outside international regulations if faced with more sanctions.