UNITED NATIONS The Security Council on Monday adopted its third resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to cease enriching uranium, an activity that the West suspects Iran may be using to create fuel for a nuclear weapon.
The previous two measures gained unanimous support of the 15-member panel, but in Monday's balloting, Indonesia abstained, saying it "remained to be convinced of the efficacy of adopting additional sanctions at this juncture." Fourteen countries voted in favor.
The resolution authorizes inspections of cargo to and from Iran that is suspected of carrying prohibited equipment, tightens the monitoring of Iranian financial institutions and extends travel bans and asset freezes against persons and companies involved in the nuclear program.
It adds 13 names to the existing list of five individuals and 12 companies subject to travel and asset restrictions. The new names include people with direct responsibility for building fast-spinning centrifuges that enrich uranium ore and a brigadier general engaged in "efforts to get around the sanctions" in the two earlier resolutions.
Enriched uranium is used to power nuclear reactors for civilian use. But highly enriched uranium can be used as fuel for a nuclear weapon.
The new measure also bans all trade and supply of so-called dual-use items, materials and technologies that can be adapted for military as well as civilian ends.
Earlier Monday in Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear monitor, said newly disclosed intelligence reports that Iran had secretly researched how to make nuclear weapons were of "serious concern" and would be pursued by his office.
"Iran continues to maintain that these alleged weaponization studies related to conventional weapons only are fabricated," ElBaradei said in a speech to the agency's 35-country policy-making body. "However a full-fledged examination of this issue has yet to take place."
The studies were described last Monday, in a briefing by Olli Heinonen, the agency's senior inspector.
They included sketches and a video that appeared to have come from Iran's own military laboratories, and Heinonen said they showed work "not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon."
In a thinly veiled criticism of Iran, ElBaradei said, "I urge Iran to be as active and cooperative as possible in working with the agency to clarify this matter of serious concern."
Iran says the agency's findings support its claim that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, and it has rejected all suggestions that it was studying how to make nuclear weapons.
Iran's ambassador to the agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, called the intelligence data "forged and fabricated" and denounced the new Council resolution Monday as "irresponsible" and "an arrow aiming at the heart of" the atomic energy agency.
Iran argues that its program is devoted solely to producing fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity. The United States and its European allies on the Council contend the real purpose is to make Iran an atomic power, and they say they are determined to prevent that from happening.
The resolution voted Monday was originally scheduled for a decision Friday, but its two sponsors, Britain and France, delayed consideration in the hope of getting as close to unanimity as possible. In addition to Indonesia, three other Council countries Libya, South Africa and Vietnam had expressed reservations.
To address them, the final version included last-minute language changes making it clear that cargo inspections must conform to local and international laws and stressing the central role of the International Atomic Energy Agency and evidence in the latest report from ElBaradei on Feb. 22 that Iran was cooperating with the agency.
The resolution extends the reach of punishments in the two earlier measures, adopted in December 2006 and March 2007, but it does not make them any tougher.
The text was drawn up after months of talks among the Council's five permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States and Germany, which is not a Council member.
It repeats a pledge from the six countries to establish full relations and economic cooperation with Iran should it agree to suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
In Vienna, Britain, France and Germany said they were preparing a draft resolution critical of Iran that could be adopted by the agency's policymaking body later this week. The United States, Canada, Australia and Japan already have indicated privately they would support such a move.
It would be the first time the board had passed such a resolution on Iran since it referred Iran's nuclear behavior to the Security Council for review two years ago.
The United States, which in the past has criticized ElBaradei for not being tough enough on Iran, expressed support for this approach. "Despite some progress in addressing past issues, troubling questions remain about Iranian activities that strongly suggest a clandestine weapons-related program," Gregory L. Schulte, the American envoy to the agency, told reporters in Vienna.
He added, "Between the indications of weapons work, which would constitute a violation of Iran's treaty obligations and Iran's blatant violations of Security Council resolutions, there is strong reason for Iran's file to remain open both in New York and in Vienna."