46. Telegram From the Embassy in Bangladesh to the Department of State and the Mission to the United Nations1

257. Subject: Iran Sanctions: Position of Bangladesh. Ref: State 008679.2

1. C–Entire text.

2. I called on Foreign Secretary Kibria on the morning of January 12 and told him that Zambia would vote for the U.S. resolution and that we hoped Bangladesh would also support it. Kibria, who had already heard of the 24-hour delay, expressed appreciation for this U.S. decision. I made it clear that we would probably need to press ahead for a vote in any event.

3. Kibria then conveyed to me the Bangladesh decisions, taken after President Zia met with a group of Cabinet and political colleagues, to abstain on sanctions. He gave three reasons, all of which the Embassy has set forth in detail previously:3

(a) The BDG considers that in a region in which unsettled conditions had been further stimulated by Soviet aggression, sanctions would further destabilize the area. He mentioned Iran and the Gulf states and expressed concern about leftist groups taking advantage of the situation.

(b) Bangladesh has consulted the major Islamic nations and does not find support for sanctions. Kibria listed Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States (the Bangladeshis consulted the Saudi Arabians on December 11 and ascertained that the Saudis opposed sanctions).

(c) President Zia is concerned about internal political repercussions of Bangladesh’s support to sanctions. Kibria said that they were worried about political groups which would seek to exploit religion to undermine the stability which Zia has brought to Bangladesh.

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4. In reply I drew on the arguments used by Ambassador McHenry in his meeting with the nonaligned SC members on January 11.4 I made clear the extent to which the U.S. has set forth a series of ideas to the Iranians and the complete lack of results. Availing ourselves of the procedures of the Security Council in order to impose sanctions was the next logical step. I expressed disappointment in Bangladesh’s decision to abstain.

5. Comment: I believe this is the considered Bangladeshi view. Any chance to alter it was lost when the Saudis told the Bangladeshis of their opposition to sanctions.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800020–0900. Confidential; Niact Immediate; Exdis.
  2. Telegram 8679 to multiple posts, January 12, reported that the United States agreed to a 24-hour delay on the UN Security Council vote on a U.S.-proposed resolution imposing sanctions on Iran that was scheduled for January 12, pending clarification of an Iranian proposal “involving a General Assembly resolution discussing Iran’s grievances which could lead to the beginning of the release of the hostages.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800020–0512)
  3. See Document 44.
  4. Telegram 109 from USUN, January 11, reported McHenry’s January 11 discussion with representatives of non-aligned members of the Security Council, during which he said that the United States would be willing to develop “a forum for airing of Iranian grievances;” “to facilitate legal action by GOI in US courts to recover assets of former Shah that may be judged to belong to Iranian national treasury;” “to lift the freeze on Iranian assets and to facilitate normal commercial relations on understanding that Iran will meet its financial obligations” after the release of the hostages; and “to reiterate statements already made [garble—regarding?] U.S. respect for integrity of Iran and the right of Iranian people to choose their own form of govt. The U.S. recognizes the Islamic Republic of Iran as the legal government of Iran.” McHenry also noted that the Shah was “not under U.S. control. This is a matter between the Govts of Iran and Panama.” Summing up, McHenry “suggested that these points covered the question of Iranian grievances and took account of various ideas put forward by non-aligned and other delegations.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800018–1193)
  5. The UNSC vote on the U.S. draft resolution calling for sanctions on Iran took place on January 13. The Soviet Union vetoed the resolution and Bangladesh abstained. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1980, pp. 309–311)