Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Financial Times Missile Ad Spurs Iranian Anger

Adam Smallman and Sally Jones, DowJones:
A full-page advert in London's Financial Times newspaper by the American Jewish Committee asking if the world could feel safe if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons has spurred anger from Iranian diplomats. The advert in Wednesday's paper features a map of Europe, Africa and Asia with Iran blacked out and the projected range of Iranian missiles.

Countries within range include Thailand, Spain and Nigeria, and the advert, signed by the committee's president, executive director and Gershon Kekst, head of its media campaigns, asks: "Can anyone within range of Iran's missiles feel safe?"

It adds: "Suppose Iran one day gives nuclear devices to terrorists. Could anyone anywhere feel safe?" READ MORE

The AJC says on its Web site that it is a think tank and advocacy organization that uses education and diplomacy to build support for Israel.

"Topping AJC's list of concerns is backing for Israel's quest for peace and security and the treatment of Israel at the U.N.," the Web site says.

The advert follows Iranian missile tests this week in the Persian Gulf.

Tehran-based Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told Dow Jones Newswires that the advert demonstrated hypocrisy by Israel: "The Israeli regime has hundreds of nuclear warheads and its position is hyprocrisy." He added: " It's absolutely astonishing that such countries and organizations are accusing others for actions and practices which they themselves are carrying out."

The implications in the newspaper advert are without foundation, he said. "We have said time and time again that we have no room for nuclear military endeavours and we have said time and time again we're not looking for this."

Iran wasn't on the offensive, Asefi said. History showed "we've never threatened any countries" and "even during the eight-year imposed war (with Iraq) the only action we ever took were those to defend ourselves."

A Europe-based Iranian diplomat said: "We're very surprised and insulted," by the publication of the advert, adding there is talk of legal action against the newspaper. The diplomat added that if the U.K. tabloid newspapers the Sun or Mirror had carried this advertisement, "it would've been one thing. But for a newspaper with the weight and profile of the Financial Times it's unbelievable."

A statement is being prepared, another diplomat said.

A spokeswoman for the FT said it had received no complaints. The FT is owned by Pearson PLC (PSO) (PSO).

Iran said Tuesday it has tested a second new radar-avoiding missile, the latest weapon to be unveiled during war games in the Gulf that the military says are aimed at preparing the country's defenses against the U.S.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen over Iran's nuclear program. Iran says the program is solely intended for power generation but the U.S. says the Iranians are aiming to build nuclear weapons.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment of uranium and last week it asked the U.N. nuclear agency to report back in 30 days on whether Iran had complied with the demand.

Iran said is new missile, called Kowsar after the name of a river in paradise, was a medium-range weapon and Iran had the capability to mass-produce it.

Friday, the country tested the Fajr-3, a missile that it said can avoid radars and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads. Since the war games began Friday, the country also has tested what it calls two new torpedoes.

Since coming to power in elections in June last year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a record of anti-Semitic comments, including denying that Holocaust took place and suggesting that Israel is "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map."

His rhetoric, combined with Tehran's nuclear activities, have increased tension between Israel and Iran.

Some analysts say Israel has developed its own nuclear weapons.

-By Adam Smallman and Sally Jones, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0) 20 7842 9343;