The United States and its Western allies won crucial support from Russia and China for new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, but face a tough campaign to get backing from the rest of the UN Security Council.

The draft resolution would ban Iran from pursuing “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” freeze assets of nuclear-related companies linked to the Revolutionary Guard, bar Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining, and prohibit Iran from buying several categories of heavy weapons, including attack helicopters and missiles.

It would also call on all countries to cooperate in cargo inspections – which must receive the consent of the ship’s flag state – if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe these activities could contribute to Iranian nuclear activities.

On the financial side, the draft calls on – but does not require – countries to block financial transactions, including insurance and reinsurance, and ban the licensing of Iranian banks if the countries have information that provides “reasonable grounds” to believe these activities could contribute to Iranian nuclear activities.

A government official in Jerusalem responded to the sanctions draft by saying that while Israel supported the actions in the UN Security Council, it “believes the only way sanctions can be effective is if they are crippling sanctions that target both the export and import of petroleum products. We need to see crippling sanctions that bite.” The official acknowledged that the draft sanctions do not fit that characterization.

Another round of UN sanctions based on the draft would only be “of symbolic importance,” because it would demonstrate that the international community was still very concerned about the issue, he said, adding that along with the UN moves, countries committed to stopping Iran must impose crippling sanctions.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been saying for months that the only sanctions that would impact the Iranians would be those leveled against the country’s energy sector.

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On Tuesday morning, Netanyahu convened the forum of his closest ministers, known as the “septet,” and, among other issues, discussed the deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey on Monday, whereby Iran would transfer some of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey. The consensus among the participants at that meeting was that the move was an Iranian “maneuver.”

Iranian Vice President Mehdi Mostafavi dismissed the current sanctions push, saying it was nothing new.

“Most countries stand by Iran’s side in the nuclear field. So if a few other countries, including the Americans, differ, then it is not important for us,” Mostafavi told reporters on Wednesday in Beirut, where he will be attending a Christian-Muslim dialogue conference.

The agreement appeared to be a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has doggedly pursued sanctions since Iran rebuffed US overtures last year.

Russia and China, which have close ties to Iran and could veto any resolution, joined fellow permanent council members Britain, France and the United States, as well as non-member Germany, in supporting the sanctions proposal.

Both Russia and China resisted sanctions before they were persuaded to support the stepped-up pressure on Iran in recent weeks. Proposed sanctions relating to Iran’s oil and gas industry were removed due to opposition from the two countries, which have vast investments and interests in Iran’s energy sector.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the final draft was acceptable because it was “focused adequately on nonproliferation matters” and didn’t cause “humanitarian damage” or create problems for normal economic activities in Iran and for the country’s economic relations with other countries.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate committee that she spent Tuesday on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “finalizing the resolution.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov “expressed anxiety” in his talk with Clinton about reports that the United States and European Union might undertake unilateral sanctions against Iran, beyond measures agreed to by the Security Council.

At least three of the 10 nonpermanent Security Council members – Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon – have expressed opposition to new sanctions.

Brazil tight lipped on new sanctions

The US introduced the draft sanctions resolution at a closed council meeting on Tuesday, but Brazil announced afterward that that it wouldn’t even discuss it “at this point,” because it wanted to focus on the nuclear swap agreement that Iran signed on Monday with Brazil and Turkey.

The deal would take 1,200 kilograms, about 2,600 pounds, of low-enriched uranium out of Iran for a year and return higher-enriched uranium for a medical research reactor in Teheran. That’s the same amount as under a tentative October agreement negotiated by the US, Russia, France and Iran and endorsed by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

“We feel there is a new situation,” said Brazil’s UN Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, adding that Iran’s first signed commitment to the nuclear swap “creates a confidence building atmosphere for further dialogue and negotiations.”

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim conceded that the agreement did not solve all the problems posed by Iran’s nuclear program, which the West suspects could lead to the development of nuclear weapons, but he argued it lays the groundwork for a peaceful solution to the dispute.

“I am optimistic about the results,” he said in Brasilia.

Iranian presidential adviser Mojtaba Hashemi Samareh rejected the sanctions proposal as “illegitimate.” He was quoted by state TV’s Web site on Wednesday as saying the draft was an effort to undermine the deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil.

US Ambassador Susan Rice insisted, however, that the pursuit of new sanctions has “nothing to do with” the proposed nuclear swap. The October proposal had been presented as a “confidence-building measure,” not as a solution to Iran’s nuclear standoff, she said.

Rice stressed that Iran has taken new actions since October and that even after Monday’s agreement the government announced that it still planned to enrich uranium to 20 percent. That “not only eliminates any confidence-building potential” but intensifies Iran’s violation of existing UN sanctions, she said.

She said she was confident the resolution will get the minimum nine “yes” votes without a veto needed for adoption by the 15-member Security Council, but the final tally remains uncertain.

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