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Iran’s Ahmadinejad Discounts New U.N. Sanctions as ‘Valueless’

June 9, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: Next tonight: more United Nations sanctions against Iran.

Ray Suarez has our story.

RAY SUAREZ: Today’s vote came after months of delicate negotiations, but the measure passed without the unanimity its supporters wanted. Twelve of the 15 Security Council members voted for the sanctions, including permanent members China and Russia. Both have significant trade with Iran.

But, first, the two countries forced changes that weakened the sanctions. Among the final provisions: a ban on Iranian pursuit of any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, new embargoes on heavy weapons sales and a push for ship inspections, and a near doubling of the number of companies and individuals blacklisted for doing illegal business with Tehran.

That last provision will focus on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the elite military force that plays a central role in supplying and safeguarding the Iranian nuclear program. Turkey and Brazil voted against sanctions. They negotiated a deal last month to ship low-enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for medical reactor fuel.

Both countries criticized today’s action.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Brazilian ambassador to the United Nations: The concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program raised today will not be resolved until dialogue begins. By adopting sanctions, this council is actually opting for one of the two tracks that were supposed to run in parallel — in our opinion, the wrong one.

RAY SUAREZ: The U.S. and others dismissed the fuel swap with Brazil and Turkey because Iran would be allowed to keep enough material for a nuclear weapon and continue enriching uranium.

In Washington, President Obama spoke after the U.N. vote. He said, this day wasn’t inevitable.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We know that the Iranian government will not change its behavior overnight, but today’s vote demonstrates the growing costs that will come with Iranian intransigence.

Now, I want to be clear. These sanctions do not close the door on diplomacy. Iran continues to have the opportunity to take a different and better path.

RAY SUAREZ: The new sanctions would be the fourth set imposed on Iran since 2006, but, in recent days, independent reporting showed the Islamic republic has evaded previous sanctions by using extensive smuggling operations and banking sleight of hand.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced this latest vote as valueless. He had already indicted the U.N. Tuesday.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iranian president (through translator): The Security Council is the most undemocratic international organization. A few countries have the right of veto, which means they dominate the whole world. Unfortunately, their wrong behavior has even raised the Security Council to a level above the General Assembly, and has enabled it to dominate the General Assembly.

RAY SUAREZ: Iran’s U.N. ambassador insisted today that no amount of pressure will make his country give up its nuclear program.