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Tue 4 Mar 2008 04:43 PM

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Iran slates Security Council over sanctions

Council manipulated by West and undermining UN atomic agency, Tehran claims.

Iran slates Security Council over sanctions
SANCTIONS SLATED: Iran said the Security Council, pictured, was being manipulated by the West. (Getty Images)

Iran on Tuesday slammed the UN Security Council's move to tighten sanctions over its contested nuclear programme, accusing the world body of being manipulated by the West and undermining the UN atomic agency.

The Security Council on Monday imposed its third set of sanctions against Iran in the space of 15 months to punish Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, which world powers fear Iran could use to make nuclear weapons.

"We are once again witnessing the bitter reality that the Security Council's position is belittled to an extent to serve as an instrument at the service of the foreign policy of a few countries," said Iran's ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaie.

The resolution is "totally illegitimate and illegal", he told the session, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Fourteen of the council's 15 members voted in favour of Resolution 1803 put forward by Britain and France, who delayed the vote in a bid to win unanimity to send a strong signal to Tehran.

Indonesia abstained, but Libya, South Africa and Vietnam, which joined Indonesia in expressing reservations about the need for fresh sanctions, finally voted in favour.

Curiously, by 1100 GMT on Tuesday no Tehran-based top Iranian official had given a reaction to the report, which was also receiving low-profile coverage on state television and was absent from the top news headlines.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who dismissed past resolutions as "pieces of scrap paper", has already said the sanctions will have no impact on Tehran's nuclear drive.

State radio played up Indonesia's abstention as a defeat for Washington.

In Israel, meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his country had the necessary "might and the power to defend itself against any threat" from arch-foe Iran.

Iran had been hoping its ongoing cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog to answer questions about past areas of ambiguity in its atomic programme would mean the nuclear case would be taken away from the Security Council.

"The objective of the false position of the West in the Security Council is to damage the agency and its professional efforts," the ISNA news agency quoted Iran's ambassador to the watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as saying.

Iranian officials have queued up to hail the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) latest report as a success for Tehran, even though the body was unable to confirm that the nuclear drive was peaceful.

Intelligence shown to the IAEA board last week also alleged that Tehran was involved in military research that pointed to the development of non-conventional weapons.

The information suggested Iran continued nuclear weapons work beyond the 2003 date cited in a recent US intelligence report. But Tehran, which insists its nuclear drive was and is peaceful, dismissed the documents as fakes.

"I urge Iran to be as active and as cooperative as possible in working with the agency to clarify this matter of serious concern," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the IAEA's 35-member board of governors in Vienna.

After the UN vote, the six world powers issued a statement calling for new talks between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to break the deadlock.

The head of parliament's foreign policy commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi meanwhile warned that talks with the EU could have been endangered by the new resolution.

"Iran's supreme national security council should react with a new decision with regard to the mechanism of negotiations and the continuation of interaction with Europe," he said.

The resolution gives Iran three months to comply with UN and IAEA demands to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear fuel and atomic weapons.

It includes an outright ban on travel by officials involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programmes, and broadens a list of individuals and entities subject to an assets freeze.

It calls for inspections of shipments to and from Iran if there are suspicions of prohibited goods.

The resolution urges states to "exercise vigilance" in entering into new commitments for public-provided financial support for trade with Iran, including the granting of export credits.