Thursday, September 16, 2004

Khaleej Times Online: "Iran may take nuclear issue to International Court of Justice

"Iran may take nuclear issue to International Court of Justice
"Iran may take nuclear issue to International Court of Justice
(DPA/AP/AFP)

16 September 2004



TEHERAN — Iran yesterday warned that any attempts to impose ultimatums on the country’s controversial nuclear programme could be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.


“If the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided to impose an ultimatum to suspend any form of enrichment or even bring the case to the United Nations Security Council, then Iran would refer to the International Court,” Iran’s former IAEA envoy Ali Akbar-Salehi told the news agency Mehr.

Mr Salehi said that any such ultimatum would deprive Iran of the right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology and would therefore be a breach of the 1969 Geneva convention. The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the UN and arbitrates in legal disputes submitted to it by UN member states.

Iran has long denied accusations of developing a nuclear weapons programme and the country’s file is currently under IAEA investigation. The IAEA board of governors meeting opened on Monday in Vienna with Iran topping the agenda.

Hossein Mousavian, head of Iran’s delegation at the IAEA board of governors meeting, said that the IAEA was not entitled to order Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

Mr Mousavian, however, pointed out that the leadership in Iran should decide about further steps to take. President Mohammad Khatami, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani are the main decision-making sources in Iran on the nuclear issue.

The United States has called for the dispute to be taken directly to the UN Security Council, which unlike the IAEA has the power to impose sanctions.

The European Union, however, says Iran should be given until November 25 to supply information on all its nuclear activities.

Meanwhile, Iran’s powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on Monday he was expecting little of the European Union in his country’s standoff with the United States over allegations of covert nuclear weapons development.

“We can’t place much confidence in the Europeans even if they are more intelligent than the Americans,” Mr Rafsanjani told the student news agency Isna.

Britain, France and Germany submitted a draft resolution to the IAEA in Vienna on Monday proposing a November deadline for Iran to allay US and Israeli suspicions about its nuclear programme.

The three European governments had been instrumental in obtaining a series of concessions from Iran last year that headed off a previous US-led push for Security Council enforcement action. Mr Rafsanjani, who retains enormous influence as head of the Expediency Council, Iran’s final arbiter on legislation, insisted Teheran would press ahead with its nuclear programme whatever the UN watchdog decided.

“We will continue on our present course and will not renounce out rights” under both the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its additional protocol to acquire nuclear technology for civil purposes, he said.

“It is clear that our goal is the peaceful use of atomic energy ... We are trying to convince other countries of that so that they do not make ill-founded assessments of us.”

Meanwhile, new allegations that Iran’s nuclear activities are more widespread than it has made public come from a group that has been right before on this subject — and one that wants to topple the regime in Teheran.

Days before the IAEA board of governors opened its meeting on Monday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a news conference in Paris claiming to have uncovered more about Teheran’s nuclear activities.

Iranian officials have simply ignored the charge. That is their long-standing practice when it comes to the opposition, which has an armed wing accused of sabotage and other attacks in Iran. Iran recently announced a crackdown on what it called the council’s attempts to spy on nuclear programmes it insists are peaceful. The US accuses Iran of trying to build a nuclear bomb, has lumped it into an "axis of evil” along with Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea, and is lobbying for UN sanctions.

The opposition’s most dramatic allegation in Paris was that Iran has a hidden uranium processing plant near Bandar Abbas, a major industrial port in southern Iran that is home to a missile production facility. William Samii, editor of Iran Report, a newsletter funded by Radio Free Europe, said it was becoming increasingly clear that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons, but that it would be hard to confirm a piece of the puzzle like the latest opposition allegations without a visit to the area. "

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