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CNN Exchange: Commentary

Zarif: United Nations unfairly pressuring Iran

By Javad Zarif
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Javad Zarif is Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, addresses Iran's nuclear ambitions in a separate commentary.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The recently adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1696 on Iran's peaceful nuclear program was unwarranted and unhelpful.

There was no legal basis to involve the Security Council in Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program, particularly when the council is badly failing in its real task of addressing threats to international peace and security.

Neither are the sponsors' efforts to make the suspension of uranium enrichment in Iran mandatory consistent with international law, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the views of the majority of UN members. Iran, as a member of the NPT, has carried out its obligations and is entitled to enjoy its full rights under the treaty.

To demonstrate the peaceful nature of its program, Iran submitted its nuclear facilities to an unprecedented inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the preceding years, which enabled the agency to organize the most robust inspection it has ever carried out. It included more than 2,000 inspector-days of scrutiny in the past three years. Iran even went far beyond any of its legal obligations by taking the unprecedented step of repeatedly allowing inspectors to visit military sites in order to investigate baseless allegations.

Consequently, in November 2003 and in the wake of sensational media reports on the so-called 18 years of concealment by Iran, the IAEA confirmed that "to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities ... were related to a nuclear weapons program." The same conclusion can be found in many other IAEA reports, even as recently as February 2006.

Much has been made of a statement by the IAEA that it is not yet in a position "to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran."

But no attention has been paid to repeated IAEA acknowledgments that reaching such a conclusion is a time-consuming process. Also ignored is the recent IAEA report that 45 other countries are in the same category as Iran, including 14 European nations and several members of the Security Council.

Yet, if the IAEA had been allowed to continue its inspections in its proper technical context and without political hindrance of Security Council involvements, even such a final conclusion on Iran's totally peaceful nuclear program was not out of reach. The IAEA inspections were already making good progress in resolving the outstanding issues, chief among them the foreign origin of high-enriched uranium contamination on imported centrifuges.

What is utterly incomprehensible is the rush with which the sponsors of the UN resolution decided to push their draft through the Security Council. They did so while the Iranian Government had already said that it required just three more weeks to complete its consideration of the package recently proposed by the group of five plus one and to come up with a substantive response, and despite a consensus view, including that of the U.S. intelligence community, on the absence of any urgency.

The lack of any genuine ground suggests that involving the Security Council was aimed at imposing pressure on Iran to abandon its rightful program. This is a shortsighted policy, as it would, in the process, undermine the NPT by depriving its members from drawing rightful benefits from their membership. This is particularly troubling while non-members are rewarded for their intransigence.

It is shortsighted also because threats hamper negotiations and make a resolution more difficult. The Iranian people and government are not seeking confrontation and have always shown their readiness to engage in serious and result-oriented negotiations based on mutual respect and equal footing. They have also shown, time and again, their resilience in the face of injustice and imposition.

What is your take on this commentary? E-mail us

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer. This article is part of a series of occasional opinion pieces on CNN.com that offer a broad range of perspectives that express a variety of thoughts and points of view.

Your responses

CNN.com asked readers for their thoughts on Javad Zarif's commentary. We received a lot of excellent responses. Below you will find a small selection of those e-mails, some of which have been edited for length and spelling.

Zafir is right. To bring stability in the region, Iran needs to have nuclear capability.
Dhishum, San Jose, California

The theologically based government of Iran is obviously not fooling anyone by saying they have a right to nuclear technology for the energy needs of its people. Why don't they admit it? They want nuclear armament capability because Israel and Pakistan have it. The difference is Iran is directed by Ayatollahs who believe in prophecies that include the annihilation of this world so as to rebuild an Islamic utopia. The idea of nuclear weaponry in the hands of religious zealots who are not afraid to die as "martyrs" is a big problem!
Ken K., Longmont, Colorado

I believe Mr. Zarif is absolutely right. President Bush is taking us on a path of confrontation with many other countries and is making more enemies everyday. You cannot justify war and killing innocent people by labeling everyone as a terrorist or a terrorist country. By all accounts, there are more terrorists in the world today than ever was before, thanks to President Bush's war on terror.
Reza Shafii, Deerfield, Massachusetts

The debate about Iran's intentions, both nuclear and otherwise, boils down to one word, "trust." Why should any member of the civilized nations of the world trust anything from the mouth of any Iranian government official?
Bruce Shulman, Silver Spring, Maryland

Iran is being bullied by the United States because it sees Iran a threat to Israel. Iran has all the rights and privileges as a nation to develop nuclear energy for its use. Just because it is a Muslim country it is being treated like this. The author of this article is right on by spelling out that Iran has complied with all the requirements of the IAEA.
Feroz, Vancouver, British Columbia

It is hard to take any Iranian serious when their leader states openly that they are bent on the destruction of another nation who has not harmed them in any way. Their hatred and deception comes through in spite of what they say.
Leonard Bynum, Madison, Alabama

The comments of the Iranian ambassador are correct. What's the big deal if they are pursuing a nuclear power policy? It's their decision. ... The USA should mind her own business. Every time we get involved in other country's affairs, it spells troubles for us.
Carlo Buscemi, Tucson, Arizona

Javad Zarif cannot be serious when he declares that his government's nuclear program is totally legitimate. Does he think that we were born yesterday? To quote the Iranian people as being in support of its government's policies is an insult to woman in general and especially to Atefah Sahaaleh, the Iranian 16-year-old girl who was hung for "crimes against chastity."
Peter, Salt Lake City, Utah

Reasonable negotiations and not threats would be better in this situation. If Iran wants nuclear power plants, it will just help the oil situation in the future. And we have offered more nuclear technology to India; a nation that seems always near to hostile actions with Pakistan.
Shirley Copeland, Harrison, Arkansas

Your words are meaningless against the threats and intent of your president. Even if the world believed Iran was intending nuclear research and development for peaceful purposes (which, by the way, the world does not) putting any nuclear capability in your president's reach would be criminally negligent on the world's part. The problem Mr. Ambassador isn't the Iranian people ... it is the openly ridiculous and criminal intent expressed through the words of your president.
Brett Schuchat, Aventura, Florida


Javad Zarif

Javad Zarif writes: "The Iranian people and government are not seeking confrontation."

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