03/26/2007, 00.00
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Tehran reacts to sanctions with threats and British sailors’ capture

Iran says it will partly suspend co-operation with IAEA and review its relations with countries who backed sanctions. Concerns are voiced in the Arab world.

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran’s decision to limit its co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its capture of 14 British soldiers which it threatens to try on espionage charges, appear to be Tehran’s response to the United Nations Security Council Security Council’s unanimous decision to impose new sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop its nuclear programme. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran won’t stop developing its nuclear programme, not even by a second, and threaten instead to review and correct its relations with the countries that backed the resolution.

Still no one has officially said that UN sanctions and the capture of British sailors are connected, least of all Iran, but it is clear they are, especially since the action was carried out by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) whose leaders are targeted in the sanctions with a travel ban.

UN Resolution 1747 imposes a ban on Iranian arms exports, aimed especially at Hezbollah and Hamas, even though that they can re-supply through underground channels. It also targets countries buying Iranian weapons; freezes assets belonging to nationals, organisations and companies connected to Iran’s nuclear and missile programme; calls on all governments and financial institutions not to make any new commitments "of grants, financial assistance, or concessional loans" to Tehran, except for humanitarian aid; and imposes "vigilance and restraint" over the entry or transit of people with ties to Iran's nuclear activities. The IAEA is also required to report within 60 days.

Iran responded by limiting its co-operation with the IAEA insofar as code 1-3 which requires countries to inform the agency of any new steps and decisions made in their nuclear programmes.

“This will continue until Iran's nuclear case is referred back to the IAEA from the UN Security Council,” Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said.

The tense situation is raising concerns in the Arab world. For Saudi-based Arab News the “issue now is whether the council will follow up on its threat to impose more sanctions or whether Iran will comply. Nobody wants the situation to get totally out of hand.”

According to the paper, reports that the US could be planning a military strike on Tehran raise the question of its legality, especially hard to establish without “clear evidence.” No one can forget in fact the “false evidence used to justify the invasion of Iraq.”

“For now,” the paper adds, “the sanctions have a greater psychological than material effect. But this could change in the future. Iran will face stricter sanctions each time it ignores a Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment. The fallout, as we know from Iraq sanctions, will not be limited to Iran or the region. A way out must be found.”

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