News and Information
Pretoria Denies Israel's Iran Claim
|September 20, 2005
Business Day (Johannesburg)
September 20, 2005
Posted to the web September 20, 2005
GOVERNMENT moved to defuse diplomatic wrangling with Israel yesterday after sources close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accused SA of planning to aid Iran by storing parts of its suspected nuclear weapons programme.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said yesterday that SA had seen reports in an Israeli newspaper of the allegations, and would ask the Israelis to provide the necessary proof.
The burden of proof lay with the accuser, he said.
Israel has accused Iran of trying to "buy time to overcome their technical difficulties" in making weapons.
SA's support for Iran to use its nuclear knowledge for peaceful purposes such as generating power has set SA on a collision course with the US and Israel, which fear that Iran will use the knowledge to manufacture nuclear weapons.
SA, which serves on the 35-member country board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and is participating in the talks this week on Iran, has opposed pressure from the US and the European Union (EU) for Iran to be referred to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.
The board is split between countries that would back a US-EU effort to refer Iran to the security council and those that oppose it. Of the 35 board members, 14 are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Developing countries on the board accuse the west of trying to deprive poor nations of independent nuclear programmes.
Of these, only Singapore and Peru have said they will back a referral of Iran to the security council, diplomats have said.
Openly against the US-EU effort are China, Russia, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Venezuela and SA. However, EU diplomats said the 14 NAM countries were considering abstaining en masse, which would ensure the EU-US plan's approval.
Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nomfanelo Kota there was no reason for SA to panic about what an Israeli official may have said about the country. She said President Thabo Mbeki met Sharon at the millennium review summit in New York last week and their discussions cleared any issues of concern to the two countries.
Mbeki urged the UN to resume negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme with the full participation of the IAEA.
While he implored nuclear- armed countries to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, saying they were as threat to global security, the president advocated diplomatic and peaceful means to reach a solution.
"None of us can justly claim that our failure as the UN to take specific decisions on these matters served to enhance global security from the threat of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Middle East and Africa
International Organizations and Africa
Conflict, Peace and Security
During the visit by Iran Supreme National Security Council secretary-general Hassan Rowhani and the head of Iran's nuclear negotiating team with Europe to SA this July, Mbeki stressed the legitimate rights of a member nation of Non-Proliferation Treaty to use peaceful nuclear technology.
The meeting was also attended by the Iranian ambassador to Pretoria and the representatives of the European trio of France, Germany and Britain.
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