Monday, April 17, 2006

Gulf countries 'will not back Iran attack'

Ireland On-Line:


The former Iranian president said today that talk of US contingency planning for a military attack on Iran was overblown because such a move would be too dangerous.

“Reports about plans for an American attack on Iran are incorrect. We are certain that Americans will not attack Iran because the consequences would be too dangerous,” former president Hashemi Rafsanjani said in an appearance in the Kuwait parliament.

Rafsanjani also said he was certain that Arab countries in the Persian Gulf would not join the US.

“We are certain that Persian Gulf countries will not help the US to attack Iran,” Rafsanjani, said.

Earlier the former leader met with Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who counselled caution.The state-owned news agency quoted al Sabah as saying Kuwait was “cautious about nuclear matters” and hoped ”what is happening in Iran was for peaceful not military purposes.”

Rafsanjani, who was president in 1989-97, heads the Expediency Council, a powerful body that arbitrates between Iran’s parliament and clerical hierarchy.

US news reports have said the US was developing contingency plans to use military force against Iran if it continued to challenge attempts by the West and the UN nuclear watchdog agency to force Tehran to abandon its uranium enrichment program.

Rafsanjani said that Iran would not step back from enrichment, a process that makes uranium suitable for fuel in nuclear reactors or for use in nuclear bombs.

Iran “does not intend to suspend the enrichment of uranium,” Rafsanjani said while visiting the Kuwait Science Centre. He added that Iran saw nuclear power as not only an asset for itself but also for the developing world and the pan-Muslim nation.

Although US President George Bush has said the military option against Iran was not on the table, the consequences of military action against Tehran’s nuclear facilities remains a major concern here.

Venezuela’s speaker of parliament, Nicholas Maduro, who is visiting Iran, said his government would oppose any political pressure or military action against Iran over its nuclear programme.

Kuwaitis – like other Arab states across the Gulf from Iran- worry about pollution from any nuclear accident in Iran, especially at the reactor in Bushehr which is due to come on stream later this year.

This small oil-rich state has been a key ally of Washington since a US-led international coalition fought the 1991 Gulf War that liberated it from a seven-month Iraqi occupation under Saddam Hussein.

It was the launch pad for the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam.

The US military also has bases in Qatar and Bahrain.

Kuwaiti politician Mohammed al-Saqer told reporters that ”Iranians are escalating every day and this is terrifying not only for the international community but for the region.”

“We feel real concern although our ties with Iran are good and Iran is a brotherly country,.” said Al-Saqer, who is head of parliament’s foreign relations committee.

The US and some European countries accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, an accusation Tehran denies, saying it intends only to generate electricity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, is due to report to the Security Council on April 28 whether Iran has met its demand for a full halt to uranium enrichment. If Tehran has not complied, the council will consider the next step. The US and Europe are pressing for sanctions against Iran, a step Russia and China have so far opposed.

“What we really fear is a (military) escalation with the US that would ... mean a fierce war in the area,” Islamist politician Nasser al-Saneh, told reporters. He said Gulf countries should open “a direct dialogue with Iran” about their concerns, and Rafsanjani’s visit was a good first step in that direction.Speaker al-Kharafi said he “personally” was confident Iran’s nuclear program was for peaceful purposes. However, he called on the Islamic republic to “reassure all those who have doubts about its intentions” because lack of transparency increases fears.

Shiite cleric and lawmaker Hussein al-Gallaf told reporters Gulf countries are seeking safety and don’t want to be part of any struggle in the area.“If there is anything to fear, we should fear Israel,” he said. “(Iran) is an Islamic state which we don’t fear.”


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