Monday, August 28, 2006

Iran Dismisses US Threat of Sanctions Coalition

Hossein Jasseb, Reuters:
Iran said on Monday a U.S. threat to form an independent coalition to impose sanctions if the U.N. Security Council failed to act over Tehran's nuclear program was an insult to the council's work.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, had indicated Washington was prepared to act independently with allies to freeze Iranian assets and restrict trade if the council did not.

"These remarks (by Bolton) are an obvious insult to the Security Council," Iranian government Gholamhossein Elham told a weekly news conference.

"These remarks are just bullying and baseless remarks and show that they (the U.S.) are not competent to be a member of the Security Council," he added. READ MORE

The United States has called for a swift response if Iran does not heed the Security Council's Thursday deadline to halt uranium enrichment.

The LA Times said Washington planned to introduce a resolution imposing penalties soon after the August 31 deadline if Iran's position did not change.

But analysts say divisions, particularly opposition from veto-wielding powers Russia and China, could delay any move.

Iran has so far shown no sign it will halt enrichment, a process which can make fuel for nuclear power plants or material for nuclear bombs. The West accuses Iran of seeking atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

"The Islamic Republic has repeatedly announced that using nuclear weapons is not in our defense policies," Elham said.


Bolton said Washington was working on a parallel diplomatic track outside the United Nations if Russia and China did not accept the resolution, the LA Times reported.

"You don't need Security Council authority to impose sanctions, just as we have," Bolton was quoted as saying.

The United States has had broad restrictions on almost all trade with Iran since 1987.

In response to an offer of incentives made by the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany, diplomats said Iran had hinted it might consider halting enrichment after talks start but not as a precondition, as the offer proposed.

Iran has shrugged off the threat of sanctions, saying such a move would push already high oil prices higher still, hurting economies in industrialized countries more than Iran.

Iran says it will press ahead with its atomic plans which it says are to produce electricity. It inaugurated a heavy-water production unit southwest of the capital on Sunday, which Western diplomats said was not a proliferation threat itself but was part of project that could eventually have military uses.

International crude prices remain in sight of record highs partly because of market fears that supply from Iran, the world's fourth largest oil exporter, could be disrupted if the nuclear dispute escalates.

Iran said it fired a missile on Sunday from a submarine in the Gulf as part of wargames which analysts view as a signal that Iran could disrupt oil shipping in the area if pushed by an escalation in the nuclear standoff.

Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief Yahya Rahim Safavi also told state TV late on Sunday an un-manned Iranian plane photographed a U.S. aircraft carrier operating in the Gulf earlier this year.

The U.S. Navy denied any such incident. "We have the ability to know. This incident did not take place," a spokesman for the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet told Reuters on Monday.