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Iran loses UN voting rights over $16 million in unpaid dues, blames US sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at the United Nations on Sept. 18, 2017. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)
February 02, 2021

Iran lost its ability to vote in the United Nations General Assembly last month over millions in unpaid dues and has been blaming U.S. sanctions for the prohibitive debts.

On Jan. 20, the U.N. listed Iran, alongside the Central African Republic, Congo and South Sudan as countries no longer permitted to vote in U.N. proceedings over unpaid dues. Three other countries were also behind on their dues, but were permitted to participate in U.N. proceedings until the end of the current U.N. session.

The Jerusalem Post reported Iran is currently $16.2 million behind on its U.N. payments. Iran has blamed the U.S. for falling behind.

The South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran set aside funds for the U.N. payments in two South Korean banks. Khatibzadeh said those accounts were subsequently frozen under U.S. sanctions. Khatibzadeh said Iran has been locked out of about $7 billion in total in the accounts.

“Despite restrictions caused by the United States’ unilateral sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran has, in recent years, always paid its UN membership fee,” Khatibzadeh said.

Khatibzadeh said Iran had proposed to pay the U.N. dues through the seized assets in South Korea.

“Given that the United States has encroached upon Iran’s international assets before, the Islamic Republic of Iran insists that the UN not use an American intermediary bank to receive our country’s membership fee, or that this organization guarantee the financial transfer channel,” Khatibzadeh’s remarks continued.

The U.S. has been increasing sanctions against Iran since President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018. While the U.S. has increasingly sanctioned Iran, an effort by the Trump administration to trigger a snapback of sanctions on Iran was met with resistance at the U.N. and continued opposition after the Trump administration moved forward with the sanctions effort.

In December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani previewed his expectations for incoming President Joe Biden, said he has “no doubt” Biden would drop sanctions and rejoin the Iran deal.

“I have no doubt that the heroic national resistance of Iran is going to compel the future U.S. government to bow . . . and the sanctions will be broken,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani also said Iran’s missile program would not be a part of negotiations for a return to the Iran deal.

In the days following Iran’s loss of U.N. voting rights, Iran has called on Biden to act quickly to rejoin the Iran deal, giving him until Feb. 21 to bring the U.S. back into the agreement.