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Iran loses voting rights in UN General Assembly over debt blamed on US sanctions

Tehran reacts angrily, saying Washington’s ‘economic terrorism’ prevents it from paying arrears; Central African Republic also stripped of voting rights in upcoming session

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, shakes hands with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at United Nations headquarters July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, shakes hands with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at United Nations headquarters July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

UNITED NATIONS — Iran and the Central African Republic are in arrears on paying their dues to the United Nations’ operating budget and will lose their voting rights in the 193-member General Assembly, the UN chief said in a letter circulated Wednesday.

In the letter to General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said three other African countries — Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia — are also in arrears.

But he said the assembly passed a resolution saying they can still vote in the current session which ends in September.

The UN Charter states that members whose arrears equal or exceed the amount of their contributions for the preceding two full years lose their voting rights.

But it also gives the General Assembly the authority to decide “that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member,” and in that case a country can continue to vote.

According to the secretary-general’s letter, the minimum payments needed to restore voting rights are $16,251,298 for Iran and $29,395 for the Central African Republic.

Comoros needs to pay $871,632, Sao Tome and Principe $829,888, and Somalia $1,443,640 to reduce their arrears and avoid a possible cutoff of voting rights after September, the letter says.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reacted angrily, blaming the debt on sanctions imposed by the administration of former US president Donald Trump over Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as its widespread support for terror groups throughout the Middle East.

“It is astonishingly absurd that Iranian people, who have been forcibly blocked from transferring their own money and resources to buy food and medicine — let alone pay UN contributions arrears — by a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, are now being punished for not being allowed to pay budget arrears by the secretariat of the same Organization,” Zarif wrote in a letter sent to Guterres.

The UN “can also collect from $110M US stole in recent piracy,” he added in a tweet, also calling Washington’s measures “economic terrorism.”

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