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Lebanon inclined to abstain on UN sanctions on Iran to avoid trouble--Hariri's Arab tour, meeting with Nasrallah to win approval--Iran reacts to "tough sanctions".

--Lebanon Inclined to Abstain on UN Sanctions on Iran to Avoid Trouble

--Hariri's Arab Tour, Meeting with Nasrallah to Win Approval

--Iran Reacts to "Tough Sanctions"

Most Lebanese media reported Wednesday that Lebanon is inclined to abstain from voting on new UN sanctions against Iran in the interest of maintaining calm and stability at home. The Beirut media, including AN NAHR, said that Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri had consulted Arab leaders with the aim of forming a unified Arab stand on the issue. He had also held three hours of talks with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite Hizbullah Party, which is backed by Syria and Iran. Hariri and Nasrallah have reportedly agreed that Lebanon should abstain from voting in the interest of national unity and stability in the country.

Earlier reports said that Arab leaders were divided on the issue, with some supporting the sanctions and others opposing them. This division was reflected in Lebanese public opinion, where some leaders like Druze chieftain Walid Jumblat had warned against voting in order to maintain social peace and stability. The UN Security Council is debating a fresh round of sanctions against Iran as punishment for a controversial nuclear program. Voting on the measure is expected later Wednesday.

Lebanon, which has a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council, represents the Arab bloc at the council but it is unclear whether its position mirrors the position of the 22 Arab League member states. Lebanon is divided between the pro-Western March 14 coalition and the opposition March 8 slate, which includes lawmakers from Shiite movement Hizbullah. Beirut prefers to remain on the sidelines of the Iranian issue to preserve political unity in Lebanon.

Other Lebanese leaders, including House Speaker Nabih Berri and Christian leader Michel Aoun, both members of the opposition, have "understood the need to stay impartial on the Iranian issue," according to Voice of Lebanon Radio Wednesday morning.

Turkey and Brazil reached a fuel-swap deal with Iran last month. Ankara said the measure showed diplomacy could work with Tehran.

The 15-nation council will meet at 10:00 a.m. EDT to vote on the draft resolution that was the product of five months of talks between the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. The four Western powers had wanted much tougher measures--some targeting Iran's energy sector--but Beijing and Moscow worked hard to dilute the proposed steps. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters on Tuesday that the 10-page draft was "a strong, broad based resolution that will impose meaningful and significant new sanctions on Iran."

The draft resolution calls for measures against new Iranian banks abroad if a connection to the nuclear or missile programs is suspected, as well as vigilance over transactions with any Iranian bank, including the central bank. It also would expand a UN arms embargo against Tehran and blacklist three entities controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and 15 belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The resolution would also set up a cargo inspection regime similar to one in place for North Korea. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday that individual states will likely move quickly to pass their own measures that go beyond the UN sanctions.

In addition to the draft resolution is a list of 40 companies to be added to an existing UN blacklist of firms whose assets around the world are to be frozen on suspicion of aiding Iran's nuclear or missile programs. The new blacklist, Reuters said, also includes an individual, Javad Rahiqi, head of an Iranian nuclear center where uranium is processed. His assets will also be frozen and he will face an international travel ban. The focus of heated last-minute negotiations, the new blacklist on Tuesday morning contained 41 firms, including two banks. By the end of the day China had demanded the deletion of one bank, the Export Development Bank of Iran.

Council diplomats predicted the resolution would pass, though it would likely get only 12 yes votes. Lebanon, they said, would probably abstain, while Turkey and Brazil were seen either abstaining or voting against the resolution. All five powers with a veto--the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia--are expected to vote in favor.

Iran Defiant

The first two Iran sanctions resolutions adopted in 2006 and 2007 passed unanimously. The council approved a third set of sanctions in 2008 with 14 yes votes and one abstention. Three rounds of punitive measures aimed at Iran's nuclear and missile industries have hit its economy hard but failed to persuade Tehran's leadership to halt its nuclear program or come to the negotiating table, analysts say. Instead, Iran continues to enrich uranium at increasingly higher levels, despite occasional hints of possible military action against its nuclear sites by Israel or Washington.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned during a summit on Tuesday that Iran would not discuss its nuclear program with the international community anymore if sanctions were imposed on it, AN NAHAR reported Wednesday. "If they [the international community] address us with mutual respect and justice, then we will talk with them. But if they address us aggressively, then there is no need for us to respond as it is already clear what our response would be in this situation," Ahmadinejad said.

Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee, in remarks that were distributed by the Iranian mission, said the push for sanctions showed that some countries "prefer confrontation." "In such a condition, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no choice but to react accordingly in the way it considers appropriate," Khazaee said without giving details. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad admonished Russia at a news conference in Istanbul, where he was attending the summit along with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to take care "not to be on the side of the enemies of the Iranian people."
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Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jun 9, 2010
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