Need balance in dealing with Iran

IRANIAN nuclear programme is once again under the spotlight after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday announced that Iran will itself enrich uranium up to 20 per cent purity. He also declared Iran’s intention to build 10 more uranium enrichment plants after failure of talks with six major world powers.

The announcement is seen as a blow to Western efforts aimed at stopping Tehran’s nuclear activities. Arrest of five British yachtsmen from Iran’s territorial waters last week was a reflection of the worsening ties between West and Iran. Although the British sailors have been released earlier this week but the diplomatic tensions still remain high.

While Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is aimed at fulfilling its energy requirements, United States and Israel claim that Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel has also threatened to attack and destroy Iran’s nuclear plants. The Jewish state had already destroyed Iraqi nuclear reactor in an air strike in 1981 while Syrian nuclear facility was bombed in 2007 by the Israeli air force.

It is in this context that President Ahmadinejad has assured the nation in his televised speech, that Israel would be unable to stop Iran’s nuclear programme. He also came down hard on the United States for backing Israel.

While we strongly back the efforts for a nuclear weapon free world, we also believe that these efforts should not be discriminatory towards any country. The United States and European Union are leaving no stone unturned to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons but at the same time, they have turned a blind eye towards Israeli nuclear bomb. Unlike Iran, Israel has not even signed Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

It is strange that the Israeli nuclear programme has never been discussed by the world powers as if Israel is not a part of this world.

Bombs have no religion so the West should realise that Israel’s nuclear bomb is no less dangerous than the Iran’s if it is really planning to build one. The Israeli attitude and continued attempt to intimidate Iran should also be taken into account by the powers that are trying to contain Iran’s programme.

Although the initial talks between six world powers and Iran have failed after Iran refused to send uranium to Russia for enrichment, still there are several peaceful options to resolve the issue. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has also made it clear that Iran was still willing to cooperate in a fair atmosphere. Tehran has called for simultaneous swap of fuel within its own borders.

According to experts civilian nuclear power requires uranium enriched to about three per cent, but weapons grade uranium needs to be enriched to 90 per cent. So even if the world meets Iran’s demand by providing it with 20 per cent enriched uranium within its borders, Tehran would still not be able to use it for developing nuclear weapons.

Sanctions and intimidation have failed against Iran and North Korea in past and most likely they will fail this time too. The only way forward for the West is to engage Iran in a meaningful constructive dialogue on the basis of equality and respect. Iran should also cooperate with the world community by taking confidence building measures and ensuring the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

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