US will push for asset freeze, sanctions on Iran
Washington, Apr 15: The United States will push its allies next week to consider punitive measures against Iran that include a freeze on assets, targeted sanctions and visa restrictions, the State Department said today.
Political directors from the main powers involved in trying to rein in Iran's nuclear programs are due to meet in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss what action to take after Tehran announced this week it had become a nuclear power by enriching uranium.
The senior officials from France, Germany, Britain, the United States, Russia and China will look at ''real actions'' that the United Nations can take to get Iran to change its behavior, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
The options include asset freezes, a Chapter 7 resolution under the UN charter, sanctions and travel restrictions on some members of the Iranian government, said McCormack.
''These are all levers at the disposal of the international community,'' McCormack told reporters.
While pushing for sanctions, U.S. officials said they would not look at imposing restrictions on the oil and gas sectors, pointing out the intention was not to create further hardship for the Iranian people.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a day earlier that the United Nations should consider a Chapter 7 resolution against Iran when it reconvenes, probably at the end of this month, to discuss Iran.
Chapter 7 makes a resolution mandatory under international law for all UN members. It can lead to sanctions and eventually the use of force if it specifically calls for them or threatens ''all necessary measures.'' Russia and China, key players on the Iran issue with veto rights in the Security Council, strongly oppose sanctions or the use of military force against Tehran. All other council members, including close ally Britain, oppose military action.
Earlier today, Rice spoke to Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, over his trip to Iran where he met officials to discuss the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
''He reaffirmed that he sent a strong, clear message to the Iranian leadership that it needs to comply with the just demands of the IAEA board of governors,'' said McCormack. ''I did not get the impression he heard anything new from the Iranians.'' Iran's president today said the existence of Israel was a threat to the Islamic world, a statement that McCormack called ''reprehensible'' and made strong action against Iran even more necessary.
''This is the kind of rhetoric that has only added to the fears and concerns of the international community as it relates to Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon,'' said McCormack.