Iran regains UN voting rights and lashes out at US sanctions

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran regained its voting rights in the U.N. General Assembly on Friday after making the minimum payment on its U.N. dues and lashed out at the United States for maintaining sanctions that have prevented it from accessing billions of dollars in foreign banks.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq announced that Iran had paid the minimum amount — $16,251,298 — and was able to vote in Friday’s election for five new members of the U.N. Security Council. He thanked banking and government authorities in various places, including South Korea, for enabling the payment to be made.

In a tweet, Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said: “Illegal US sanctions have not just deprived our people of medicine; they have also prevented Iran from paying our dues in arrears to the UN. After more than 6 months of working on it, the UN today announced it has received the funds. ALL inhumane sanctions must be lifted NOW.”

Iran lost its voting rights in January and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a letter circulated June 2 that Tehran had still not paid the minimum and would continue being unable to vote, along with Central African Republic.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a letter to Guterres the following day saying the United States’ “unlawful unilateral sanctions” and its “economic warfare” have most importantly prevented Iran from using its own money to buy food and medicine, in addition to not paying due to the U.N. and some other international organizations.

He wrote that the “U.S.’ unlawful acts of war” had frozen Iran’s ”multi-billion dollars of cash deposits -- and not assets or reserves -- in South Korean, Japanese, Iraqi and other banks.”

He complained it was “deplorable” that Iran was deprived of its voting rights “due to conditions totally beyond its control.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran after pulling the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six major powers in 2018. Trump not only put nuclear sanctions back, but also added layers of terrorism and other sanctions on many of the same entities. In addition, the Trump administration imposed an array of new sanctions on previously unsanctioned entities.

The Biden administration announced a new policy and is engaged in negotiations mediated by the European Union to rejoin the nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA.

EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that negotiators in Vienna “are working nonstop to revive the JCPOA in all its aspects,” including limiting Iran’s nuclear activities which have increased since Trump reimposed sanctions in 2018.

“We are making progress, but the negotiations are intense on a number of issues including on the precise sequencing of steps,” Borrell said.

Ravanchi, Iran’s U.N. ambassador, told the General Assembly after Friday’s council elections that while the Biden administration claims its policy toward the JCPOA has changed, “this change is only in words.”

“In practice, the maximum pressure policy is still continuing,” Ravanchi said, pointing to U.S. sanctions that still prevent Iran from using money in foreign banks to import medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Indeed, the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna is the first instance to test the sincerity and genuine political will of the United States towards the JCPOA,” he said. “The main and real test will be when it is verifiably proven that the U.S. has changed course, put aside its failed maximum pressure policy, and stopped its economic terrorism against Iran.”