Thursday, February 09, 2006

Saudi Ambassador Decries Iran Nuke Program

The New York Times:
The Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States on Wednesday denounced Iran's uranium enrichment program and what he called inconsistent U.S. policy toward countries that are seeking or already have nuclear weapons.

Although Iranian officials have said they want to make fuel through enrichment, the activity can also generate the nuclear core of warheads.

Iran's persistence with the enrichment program is only increasing tensions in the Middle East, ambassador Turki Al-Faisal said during a speech here.

''It escalates the tensions, and brings about competition which is unneeded,'' Al-Faisal told an audience of about 250 political and business leaders, and members of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, which organized the event. READ MORE

Al-Faisal, 60, questioned the usefulness of possessing weapons he said the Iranian people would never allow its leaders to use.

''Where is Iran going to use these weapons?'' he asked. ''If their intention is to bomb Israel, then they will kill Palestinians, Syrians, Jordanians and Saudis, as well.

''If they intend to bomb the United States, for example, they will kill other people, as well. Where is the value of having a weapon of destruction that people know you are not going to use?''

The United States is not without blame, according to Al-Faisal.

Iranians support their government in its uranium enrichment program partly because of what they see as American inconsistency, he said.

''(Iranians) see a double standard,'' he said. ''They see the U.S. government negotiating with North Korea ... and they see the U.S. signing a nuclear peace agreement with India .... and they see the U.S. turning a blind eye completely to Israel, although Israel has the most nuclear weapons in our part of the world.''

Al-Faisal called on U.S. officials to advocate a totally nuclear-free Middle East instead of picking and choosing whose nuclear programs to oppose. Last week, the U.S. and European powers successfully moved to call Iran before the U.N. Security County because of its enrichment program.

Al-Faisal also voiced his country's opposition to terrorism and condemned a Danish newspaper whose caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad have sparked rage throughout the Islamic world.

''As a Muslim, I found those cartoons offensive and absolutely uncalled for,'' he said. ''And I can't for the life of me imagine how such a depiction of a revered and respected prophet ... could have anything to do with freedom of speech.''

But whatever the cartoons depicted, those in the Muslim community who have reacted with violence are unjustified, Al-Faisal said. He asked them to follow in the footsteps of the Muhammad and practice nonviolence.

The newly appointed ambassador spoke in Dallas and Houston earlier this week. He is scheduled to speak in Boston and New York City next week.