News / Middle East

Obama says UN Vote Unmistakable Message to Iran to Change Course

President Barack Obama says the 12 to 2 vote, with one abstention, by the U.N. Security Council, imposing a fourth round of sanctions on Iran is an unmistakable signal to Iran's government that it must change course on its nuclear program.

The president said the vote was a response to Iran's failure to live up to its international obligations and responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and failure to meet requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Reviewing a series of Iranian actions, including Iran's decision to enrich uranium to a level of 20 percent, concealment of a key nuclear site, and construction of several-thousand centrifuges, Mr. Obama said the vote demonstrates Iran must change. "The Iranian government must understand that true security will not come through the pursuit of nuclear weapons.  True security will come through adherence to international law and the demonstration of its peaceful intent," he said.

Turkey and Brazil, who negotiated a nuclear-fuel agreement with Tehran, voted against the resolution, while Lebanon abstained.  With concessions made to win the support of Russia and China, the resolution is not as strong as the United States had sought.

It calls for measures against Iranian banks suspected of involvement in nuclear or missile programs, and lists more than three-dozen companies, entities and individuals with links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.  It also expands a U.N. arms embargo and places a travel ban and asset freeze on 40 individuals.

The resolution also calls for vessels or aircraft headed to or from Iran, suspected of transporting banned cargo, to be inspected.  And the resolution prohibits countries from allowing Iranian investments in nuclear enrichment plants, uranium mines and other nuclear-related technology.

Iran quickly rejected the resolution. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it was of no value and should, in his words, be thrown in the trash like a used handkerchief.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs downplayed the failure of the U.S to achieve a unanimous Security Council vote approving the  resolution. "People can debate 12 votes, 15 votes or whatever.  The bottom line is that there is a greater sanctions regime on the government of Iran today than there was yesterday, than there has been at any other point," he said.                       

President Obama said the door is not closed for a diplomatic solution with Iran, saying the sanctions are not directed at the Iranian people, adding he hopes that the government in Tehran will make a different choice going forward.

"I want and hope for the people of Iran that the government of Iran will make a different choice.  It can make a different choice and pursue a course that will reaffirm the Nonproliferation Treaty as the basis of global nonproliferation and disarmament a course that will advance Iran's own security and prosperity and the peace of the wider world," he said.

Iran has consistently denied allegations by the U.S. and other Western powers that it seeks to develop nuclear weapons, saying its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes.

In the U.S. Congress, key Democrats described the U.N. vote as a diplomatic victory for President Obama that will pave the way for further action.  Republicans described the resolution as weak and unenforceable.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Democrat Howard Berman, said it paves the way for tougher actions by the European Union and others, adding that Congress intends to pass its sanctions legislation later this month.   

The ranking Republican on the committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, called the resolution weak and full of loopholes, asserting it has no effective means of enforcement and will not stop Iran's march towards nuclear weapons or influence the regime's behavior in any way.

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