Australia mulls sanctions against Iran
Australia may consider financial sanctions against Iran even if the move does not have the backing of the United Nations.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said this was a possibility, a day after Canberra took steps to prevent Australia being used to funnel funds to North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. READ MORE
Mr Downer is in New York at a meeting of the UN General Assembly, where Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the US and Britain of trying to deny his country the benefits of nuclear power.
Tehran has refused to comply with a Security Council demand that it suspend sensitive nuclear fuel work, arguing that it has the right to conduct uranium enrichment and that its nuclear program is peaceful.
The US is pushing for sanctions against Iran for failing to heed an August deadline to suspend uranium enrichment.
Sanctions could be used to restrict Tehran's access to foreign currency and global markets, shut its overseas accounts and freeze assets held in Europe and Asia.
But the US calls for the Security Council to act could have hit a road block, after France said it would join Russia and China in resisting the demand.
Mr Downer plans to discuss Australia's concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions with its foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, later this week.
"We're obviously very deeply concerned about their refusal to comply with the Security Council resolutions and the non-compliance with their full obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency," he told reporters.
"I'll be taking the opportunity to say those things (to him) face to face."
Mr Downer believes the best way nations can convince Tehran to change its policy is by discussing the issue with Iran.
But he won't rule out taking the tougher option of sanctions - with or without UN support.
"We may very well (take action) if in the end the Security Council is unable to do anything," Mr Downer said.
"But we haven't made a final decision, I hasten to add, about that.
"It's possible we would."
Mr Downer admitted Australia had discussed the issue with the US.
"We've talked to the Americans about the issues, we're not hiding that, but what we will eventually do, it will depend on how it all plays out," he said.
"There is still some chance that the Security Council will agree to some sort of sanctions regime against Iran."
Prime Minister John Howard says the United Nations' handling of Iran will be a test of its resolve to deal with rogue states.
"The international community should continue to act in a concerted fashion through the United Nations," he told reporters.
"I make the point that the United States in relation to Iran has patiently pursued a course of action through the United Nations and her many critics should take note of that and let's see how it works through."
If the UN failed to act, "that will say something about the United Nations," Mr Howard said.
"And it will also say something about the difficulty of achieving outcomes with a body that will only act effectively if there is a convergence of opinion amongst five permanent members."