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UN won't be rushed on Iran penalties

China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-22 09:49
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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (center) chairs a Cabinet meeting in Teheran on Sunday. AFP

World body's chief sees no support for US move to reimpose sanctions

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the UN will not support reimposing sanctions on Iran, as demanded by the United States, until he gets a green light from the Security Council.

Guterres said in a letter to the council president obtained on Sunday by The Associated Press that "there would appear to be uncertainty" on whether US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo triggered the so-called snapback mechanism in the Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers.

The administration of US President Donald Trump declared on Saturday that all UN sanctions against Iran have been restored, a move most of the rest of the world rejects as illegal and is likely to ignore. The US announcement is certain to cause controversy during the UN's annual high-level meetings of the General Assembly starting on Monday, which are being held mainly virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US announcement came 30 days after Pompeo notified the council that the administration was triggering the snapback because Iran was in "significant nonperformance" with its obligations under the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

But the overwhelming majority of members in the 15-nation council call the US action illegal because Trump pulled the US out of the plan in 2018.

They point to Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear agreement. It states that "a JCPOA participant state" can trigger the snapback mechanism. The US insists that, as an original participant in the deal, it has the legal right, even though it ceased participating.

Guterres noted in the letter that "the Security Council has taken no action subsequent to the receipt of the letter of the US secretary of state, neither have any of its members or its president".

He said the majority of council members have written to the council president "to the effect that the letter did not constitute a notification" that the snapback was triggered. And he said the presidents of the council for August and September "have indicated that they were not in a position to take any action in regard to this matter".

Therefore, Guterres said: "It is not for the secretary-general to proceed as if no such uncertainty exists."

Guterres said the UN won't take any action "pending clarification by the Security Council" on whether sanctions that have been lifted should be reimposed.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani slammed the Trump administration's declaration on Saturday that all UN sanctions against Iran have been reimposed.

Decisive response

"If America uses its bullying …and does something in practice, it will have to face our decisive response," Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Rouhani said that, if the deal's remaining signatories fully carry out their obligations under the agreement, Iran will walk back its steps away from the deal.

Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, on Sunday wrote a letter to the president of the Security Council and the UN secretary-general expressing opposition to the US unilateral announcement on the return of the UN sanctions on Iran.

In his letter, Zhang said that the US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018, and is no longer a participant in the agreement. Therefore, it is illegitimate for the US to demand the Security Council invoke the snapback mechanism.

China is committed to upholding the efficacy of the JCPOA and the authority of the Security Council resolution, and will make relentless efforts toward the political solution of the Iranian nuclear issue, Zhang stressed.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing on Monday that the US doesn't abide by international law, and has even threatened to impose illegal unilateral sanctions to coerce other countries.

"This kind of outrageous and unreasonable practice has been widely opposed by the international community," he said. He urged the US not to act arbitrarily and go further down the road of unilateralism.

Chen Yingqun in Beijing, Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story.

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