Friday, April 28, 2006

Iran denounces Israel election to UN panel

Edith Lederer, Mercury News:
Iran's U.N. ambassador on Thursday denounced Israel's election as a vice-chair of the U.N. Disarmament Commission, calling the Jewish state a threat to peace in the Middle East.

Ambassador Javad Zarif accused Israel of "violating every single Security Council resolution that has been adopted about the Middle East."

He also lashed out at Israeli criticism of Iran's own election as a vice-chair of the commission, noting the Jewish state has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but "has the audacity to talk about another country having a seat." READ MORE

"That's absolutely ridiculous," he told a group of reporters at a lunch he hosted. "It's pushing the issue to the border of absurdity."

Zarif, who chaired the U.N. Disarmament Commission in 2000, noted that Iran is a party to the NPT, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts.

Israel and Iran were among eight vice-chairs elected at a U.N. Disarmament Commission meeting that began April 10 and ends Friday. The commission's mission includes preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and ensuring that atomic energy is used only for peaceful purposes.

Meir Itzchaki, deputy director for arms control in Israel's Foreign Ministry, dismissed Zarif's comments as an attempt to distract attention from the growing dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

"We are not surprised that Iran is continuing in its attempt to divert the international community's attention from the real problem, which is Iran's threat to global security and stability arising from its nuclear program," Itzchaki said.

"It is disappointing that Iran, once again, is choosing to take advantage of the U.N. to promote their anti-Semitic agenda and their culture of hatred and terror while acting in total defiance of their international obligations," he added.

Israel has for years regarded Iran as the primary threat to its survival and disputes Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is peaceful. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently questioned Israel's right to exist and said the country should be wiped off the map.

Iran's decision in February to start enriching uranium prompted its referral to the Security Council, which gave the Islamic country until Friday to suspend the activity. The process can be used to make the highly enriched uranium used in the core of nuclear warheads, but Iran insists it seeks only to produce electricity.

The United States is planning to introduce a resolution shortly that would make the Security Council's demand compulsory.