Reuters North American News Service
Apr 14, 2009 16:17 EST
* Iran demands U.N. respond to Israeli “threats”
Israeli officials hint Israel could attack nuclear sites
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran demanded Tuesday that the U.N. Security Council respond firmly to what it described as Israel’s “unlawful and insolent threats” to launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, have suggested the Jewish state could use military force to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, as the West suspects it is doing.
Iran insists it is only interested in building reactors that peacefully generate electricity. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said Israel should be “wiped off the map,” has vowed to continue his country’s nuclear program.
Iran’s U.N. ambassador, in a letter to Mexican U.N. Ambassador Claude Heller, said Israel was violating the U.N. charter and urged the international body to respond clearly and resolutely. Mexico holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council.
“These outrageous threats of resorting to criminal and terrorist acts against a sovereign country and a member of the United Nations not only display the aggressive and warmongering nature of the Zionist regime, but also constitute blatant violations of international law,” Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee wrote.
The letter came two days after Peres told Israel’s Kol Hai radio that Israel would respond with force if U.S. offers of dialogue failed to persuade Ahmadinejad to halt Tehran’s uranium enrichment program.
“We’ll strike him,” Peres said in the interview.
Netanyahu and several of his military aides made clear in an interview with Atlantic magazine last month that the government was weighing the military option in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Khazaee said the remarks were “unlawful and insolent threats” based on “fabricated pretexts.”
Marco Morales, spokesman for Mexico’s U.N. mission, confirmed receipt of the letter. He said Mexico circulated it to the rest of the council and would only take the issue further if council member states asked to do so.
Iran said Monday it would welcome constructive dialogue on its nuclear program with the five permanent Security Council members — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — and Germany.
The council has adopted five resolutions demanding that Iran freeze its uranium enrichment program, three of which imposed sanctions against Tehran. Iran has so far refused to stop enriching uranium.
President Barack Obama has promised to pursue a policy of engagement with Iran in an attempt to persuade Tehran to suspend its enrichment program. Former U.S. President George W. Bush pursued a policy of isolating Iran, branding it a member of an “axil of evil” with North Korea and prewar Iraq.
Washington cut off ties with Tehran in 1980 after militants seized the U.S. Embassy in the Iranian capital.
U.S. officials, diplomats and analysts say Obama opposes the use of military force against Iran’s nuclear sites but is worried that Israel, which bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osiraq in 1981, might bomb Iranian sites if engagement fails.
If Tehran continues to enrich uranium, analysts say, Obama will have no choice but to support a push for a new round of U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic later this year. (Editing by Peter Cooney)