Today's date:





Kamal Kharrazi is the foreign minister of Iran. The following is adapted from a longer article in Global Agenda, the publication of the World Economic Forum, and appears in conjunction with Kharrazi's appearance over the weekend at the Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

By Kamal Kharrazi

DAVOS, Switzerland — An extremist and unilateralist approach is at work in Washington's effort to undermine the recent constructive diplomacy to resolve misunderstandings over Iran's nuclear program. By insisting on referring the Iranian case to the U.N. Security Council and dismissing valuable efforts undertaken by the Europeans, the U.S. government is instead trying to settle its own scores with Iran.

This approach persists despite the latest developments that demonstrate Iran's readiness to go to extra lengths to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful and to do whatever it takes to build confidence with the entire world. In its last resolution, the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it "welcomes the fact that Iran has decided to continue and extend its suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities." At the same time, it recognizes that the suspension "is a voluntary confidence-building measure, not a legal obligation."

The agreement we reached with Britain, France, Germany and other EU countries Nov. 14 — suspension of any efforts to produce or convert uranium and to manufacture or test centrifuges — paved the way for a reasonable outcome to this crisis. Despite the difficulties and misgivings on the domestic scene, we reached an agreement that demonstrated our goodwill in the hope that it would be reciprocated and allow us to continue down the path of further confidence-building.

That same week, the IAEA confirmed in its report that inspectors had uncovered no evidence of concealed nuclear activities or an atomic weapons program in Iran. The report specifies that "all the declared material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."

Iran is fully committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and wants to strengthen its safeguards regime. This is a course we are prepared to continue pursuing. At the same time, we are unwavering in our refusal to succumb to those who may wish to deprive us of our inalienable rights under the NPT to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Aside from the economic and environmental justifications for Iran's quest for nuclear energy, it is a matter of principle that a mid-sized emerging economy such as ours cannot and should not deprive itself of the powerful momentum that nuclear technology can provide. The national consensus on this issue is based on the fact that all economic sectors would thrive upon the technological achievement of nuclear-grade standards.

Iran's commitment to the NPT stems not only from its contractual obligations as a signatory and security considerations, but also from its religious and ethical considerations. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has reiterated on several occasions a fatwa prohibiting the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. He repeated his fatwa most recently in an address Nov. 25. Given the importance of the fatwa institution in Shiite Islam, the broad significance of this should not be underestimated.

Iran's effort to strengthen the safeguards regime of the NPT so far have included the Dec. 18, 2003, signing of and immediate implementation of the Additional Protocol to the treaty; the voluntary suspension of enrichment and reprocessing activities; and active cooperation with the IAEA in providing information, making people available for interviews and granting the agency access to and permission for environmental sampling at all locations for which the agency had made requests.

As mentioned, on Nov. 14 of last year, we further agreed with the Europeans to suspend all tests, production or uranium conversion and the manufacture of components, assembly or testing of centrifuges.

On some occasions in the past several years, the IAEA has highlighted certain failures on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and has then asked that officials take corrective action. Yet in the politically charged environment created by American and Israeli officials alike, cases that would typically be considered routine elsewhere were blown out of proportion and led to irresponsible speculation.

True, over the past 18 years Iran has not always provided the agency with all the information it has demanded. But this should be viewed against the backdrop of illegal restrictions, including extraterritorially imposed sanctions by the United States.

Hardly any member-state of the NPT can claim to be flawless, as any cursory review of the IAEA's Safeguards Implementation Reports will show. Negligence or failure on the part of NPT signatories is routine. (It is also important to recall here that a IAEA report in November 2003 confirmed that "to date there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities . . . were related to a nuclear weapons program.")

The only way to counter the challenges related to the proliferation of nuclear weapons is to strengthen the relevant international instruments through multilateral, comprehensive and non-discriminatory efforts. The NPT is the cornerstone of international efforts to achieve complete nuclear disarmament and to halt proliferation of this deplorable weapon.

However, it is worrying to note shortcomings and a number of setbacks, particularly since 2000, such as the United States' intention to develop and stockpile a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons for use in conventional conflicts and against non-nuclear adversaries, the United States' reliance on nuclear weaponry for the foreseeable future, and the notion of pre-emptive strike, developed as a part of the U.S. national security strategy.

While the NPT constitutes an integrated structure, its effectiveness lies in full compliance with all its provisions by all parties. The selective approach by a few states to the provisions of the NPT — the refusal to address nuclear disarmament — undermines full implementation. Such a selective and discriminatory approach impairs the credibility of the NPT and thereby its effectiveness to address the challenges at hand.

America's extremist approach toward Iran's peaceful nuclear program, as well as toward non-proliferation issues in general — including double standards such as its tacit acceptance of Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons program — has increased mistrust among countries across the globe, not only within the Muslim world.

We must take corresponding and appropriate measure to allay such mutual suspicion. But, given the depth of mistrust, drastic action is required. Otherwise the gulf between the moderate mainstream in both the Islamic world and the West could widen, and the bleak notion of a clash of civilizations might prevail.