TEHRAN - Iran vowed to push ahead with uranium enrichment yesterday, a day after the UN Security Council passed a third round of sanctions that Tehran called "worthless" and politically biased.
The council approved the measures in a 14-0 vote, but unity among the major powers faltered yesterday when Russia and China blocked an attempt by Western nations to introduce a resolution on Iran's nuclear defiance at a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
The dispute reflected the often contentious relations between the West and Russia and China about how to deal with Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment and meet other Security Council demands aimed at ensuring its nuclear program isn't trying to produce atomic weapons.
The sanctions approved Monday ordered a freeze on assets of additional Iranian officials and companies with links to the country's nuclear and missile programs, and banned for the first time trade with Iran in some goods that have both civilian and military uses.
"This resolution is contrary to the spirit and articles of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It has been issued based on political motivations and a biased approach. It is worthless and unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini was quoted as saying by Iran's official news agency.
He said the sanctions would "have no impact on the resolve and determination of the Iranian nation and government to fulfill its legitimate rights in continuing its peaceful nuclear activities within the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."
Iran insists its enrichment work is intended to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity. The United States and others worry about Iran's intentions, because higher-grade enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear warheads.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters in New York yesterday that Tehran's response meant the Security Council had taken appropriate action.
The new sanctions came after an International Atomic Energy Agency report in late February said Iran continues to defy UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment.
In an attempt to keep up pressure on Iran, Britain, France and Germany had hoped to present a resolution before the IAEA board, which is currently meeting in Vienna, that highlighted Tehran's nuclear defiance.
A draft of the resolution made available to The Associated Press called on IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to continue investigations into the purported nuclear weapons-related experiments.
Although they voted for the Security Council sanctions, Russia and China scuttled the Western initiative at the IAEA yesterday.