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27 February 2024

Iran to face travel bans, more asset freezes

By Agencies
Proposed new United Nations (UN) sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program call for mandatory travel bans and asset freezes for specific Iranian officials and vigilance on all banks in Iran, according to a draft text.

The text of "elements" of a third round of sanctions, obtained by Reuters on Friday, was agreed on by Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China and will be the basis of a resolution intended for the Security Council to pass in the next few weeks.

Western powers had to soften some proposed measures to meet Chinese and Russian demands. But European Union and US diplomats said they were the latest step in a gradual expansion of sanctions against Iran and would almost certainly be followed by further penalties if Tehran remained defiant.

Foreign ministers of the five permanent Security Council members and Germany agreed on the outline in Berlin on Tuesday and their text was circulated on Friday to the 10 non-permanent council members.

Western countries say Iran's refusal to stop enriching uranium supports their suspicion that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and has ignored repeated UN demands that it cease enrichment.

"It's a strong draft proposal which demonstrates the continuity of the approach of the international community," said France's UN ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert.

"We are sending a very clear signal to Iran and we are increasing the pressure," he said in a statement.

Western diplomats said they would not try to rush a resolution the first on Iran in more than 10 months through the council, as they wanted unanimity. They forecast that Libya, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam could need to be talked into supporting the text.

The proposal says the resolution will demand again that Iran halt enrichment immediately and will include a list of specific new individuals whose travel should be restricted and assets frozen. Their names were not immediately available.

The text says the travel bans would be mandatory in most cases, a step up from two previous resolutions in which the travel restrictions were voluntary.

The draft says individuals to be banned are linked to "Iran's proliferation sensitive activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems ... (or) procurement of the prohibited items, goods, equipment."

Banks, shipping firms named

Among the specific measures, the proposal "calls upon states to exercise vigilance over the activities of financial institutions ... with all banks domiciled in Iran."

As expected, it says countries should be especially vigilant regarding two large Iranian banks Bank Melli and Bank Saderat although it does not ban transactions with them as the four Western powers had wanted.

Russia and China had objected, demanding a voluntary call for increased monitoring instead. Dealings with Iran's Bank Sepah were banned last year in the second round of sanctions.

The proposal also urges countries to inspect air and sea cargo of the firms Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line going into and coming out of Iran if they suspect a sanctions violation and to be cautious about granting export credits or guarantees to firms doing business in Iran.

The proposal calls for a report within 90 days on whether Iran has suspended enrichment from Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN's Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

It welcomes an agreement Iran made with the IAEA to clear up outstanding questions about Tehran's past nuclear activities and leaves open the possibility of a return to talks on economic incentives the six powers offered Iran in 2006.

It says the aim of such talks, which would only begin once Iran halted enrichment, would be a resolution of the standoff "which would allow for the development of all-round relations and wider cooperation with Iran based on mutual respect."

Iran rejected the 2006 offer, saying it was unwilling to consider a suspension of uranium enrichment. (Reuters)