U.N. Sanctions Could Further Damage Iranian Science

Scientists with Iranian passports may be barred from working or studying abroad as part of proposed United Nations sanctions. A draft resolution submitted to the U.N. security council 26 October by the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany calls on nations to "prohibit specialized teaching or training of Iranian nationals, within their territories or by their nationals, of disciplines which would contribute to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are considering this measure as part of their response to Iran's defiance of a 31 August deadline to freeze its nuclear enrichment program. Russia has so far resisted a U.S.-led drive for stronger sanctions. A possible sticking point is that sanctions could impede Russia's lucrative deal with Iran to help build an $800 million nuclear reactor in the Iranian city of Bushehr.

Iranian scientists say the ban on academic travel would deal a major blow to the country's science program. Because so many fields of science and mathematics are needed to build a nuclear bomb, even fields such as astronomy could suddenly be off limits. The debate continues behind closed doors among the member states of the U.N. security council. According to diplomatic sources, it could be weeks before the sanctions are finalized.