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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Press Conference by Iranian Academic on Human Rights, Regional Development

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

The wave of democratic reforms sweeping the Middle East was a positive development, but the United States was not embracing those changes in a constructive way, a leading Iranian academic and politician said during a Headquarters news conference today.

Recent events in the region were a “welcoming sign” that “democracy based on Islamic rationality” was taking hold, Javad Larijani, an Advisor of the Chief Justice, and Secretary-General of the High Council for Human Rights in Iran, said during a press briefing on human rights and regional development, sponsored by the permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations.

The fall of Arab dictators — once strategic allies of the United States — had been a great setback for American interests, he continued. But instead of accepting that shift, the United States Government remained paranoid about Iran’s influence, and its threatening language and “chain of resolutions” against Iran were fuelling regional hostility and instability.

“We strongly recommend that the strategic interests of the United States in the region should be redefined and should be reconciled with the wishes of the people in the region,” Mr. Larijani said, calling on the United States to “respect the other side”. Iran was the biggest democracy in the Middle East and the United States and others should not use the United Nations as a vehicle for pursuing misguided objectives against it, he said.

Asked why Abdul-Fatah Soltani, a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer, remained in jail while many human rights organizations had appealed for his release, Mr. Larijani said Mr. Soltani’s profession was irrelevant. He was jailed because of his ties to terrorist groups, which were responsible for murdering more than 10,000 people in Iran. As a victim of terrorism, Iran was very sensitive about any connections to it. It was disgraceful that the United States and other Western countries had become safe havens for terrorists who had attacked Iran.

As to why two of the main political opponents of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were in jail or under house arrest, he said no one was placed under house arrest without trial or a court order. Being an opponent of the Iranian President was not justification for confinement. But people who incited violence and engaged in illegal activities, including political leaders who incited street violence to protest election poll results, were detained. “Democracy comes through the ballots, not through the numbers in the street,” he said.

When asked why the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran had thus far been denied access to visit Iran, Mr. Larijani objected to the Organization’s singling out of Iran while there were numerous other countries around it with dismal human rights records. He supported professional reporting by United Nations rapporteurs of human rights records, including of Iran, but criticized those who just “copy and paste” from other reports based on biased and unsubstantiated information.

Mr. Larijani defended Iran’s human rights policies overall, saying they were transparent and the Government was accountable and responsible in implementing its laws. Moreover, Iran had a policy of open, proactive engagement with the Human Rights Council in Geneva and in the last 10 years more than seven United Nations thematic rapporteurs had visited the country.

Asked to comment on the human rights situation in Syria and Bahrain, he said he fully supported the people’s desire for democracy and a revival of Islamic culture in both of those nations. “This has been our policy from day number one of the movement of the people in the Middle East, including Tunisia,” he said. At the same time, Iran rejected any external pressure, incitement of violence and other interference, especially military, in all countries in the region, notably Syria, that were experiencing social change.

Regarding pressure from Arab nations and the United States on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign, he said some of those countries were dictatorships themselves and their real goal was not democracy in Syria but installing a Government there that was submissive to Israel. He declined to answer a correspondent’s question as to whether Iran would grant asylum to Mr. al-Assad in the future.

As to why Iran was manufacturing nuclear fuses as part of a nuclear weapon-building programme, he dismissed such allegations as “laughable”. He said the exploding bridgewire detonators manufactured by Iran were used in several technological devices, not just nuclear devices.

He dismissed the recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a “disgrace” that was based on unreliable documents and which lacked credible evidence to conclude that Iran was pursuing a military objective in its nuclear programme. Moreover, Iran had already responded four years ago in a 117-page report to the IAEA’s questions regarding a laptop acquired by United States intelligence that supposedly contained extensive documentation about Iran's nuclear programme.

Iran’s nuclear programme was a matter of national pride and the Government planned to invest in its research and development, he said, and added that “there is no limit to our progress”. The country, however, was not pursing nuclear weapons, as its military muscle was enough to deter any nuclear threat, and the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction was against Islamic jurisprudence and teaching.

As to whether Iran would outlaw capital punishment in the future, he said he did not anticipate the Government’s position changing in a few years. Capital punishment was used in cases such as mass rape, murder and drug trafficking. More than 74 per cent of executions in Iran were for crimes related to drug trafficking.

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