UNITED NATIONS | Tehran will seek a seat on the powerful U.N. Security Council next year, despite the trade sanctions the body has imposed to slow Iran‘s nuclear program.
“It is our right, we have not been on the council in 50 years, and we are trying our best,” an official from the Iranian Mission told The Washington Times on Tuesday.
The official, who insisted that his name not be used, said Iran’s bid for a seat on the 2009-10 council already has the “confirmation” of the Asian Group, whose members Tehran would represent.
Asian diplomats confirmed Tuesday that Iran has sought the group’s approval to run for the council seat, which currently is filled by Indonesia and is reserved for an Asian country. Regional blocs often agree in advance which country will get a seat.
A second Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Mohammadi, the mission’s press attache, also confirmed Tehran’s desire for a seat on the council.
The Iranian delegate said the overlapping memberships of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Nonaligned Movement and the Arab Group have given their support “in general.”
In December 2006, the Security Council first imposed targeted economic restrictions against senior officials in the Iranian government, military and nuclear program. It also has called on member states not to ship material or machinery that would aid Iran in enriching uranium or building nuclear weapons.
Tehran has dismissed the sanctions as illegal, and said its nuclear program is designed to produce only electricity, not weapons.
But the United States, Europe and some other countries fear that Tehran’s once-clandestine program is developing weapons that can be used against Israel or other enemies in the region. Negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the council plus Germany have stalled, although observers said public remarks have softened.
An informal agreement suggests that countries under council sanctions will not attempt to join the body, but that language is not written in the U.N. Charter or anywhere else.
“One should follow Security Council resolutions before they launch a bid to be on the Security Council,” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
The Iranian delegate shrugged off the resistance, saying no U.N. rules are in place to stop the country’s bid for a two-year term.
“We consider the council’s sanctions illegitimate, anyway,” he said with a smile.
Regional blocs at the United Nations will send five new members to the council in January, each to be approved in October by a two-thirds vote of the 192-member General Assembly. However, countries often agree in advance to field only one candidate from a bloc, making the election automatic.
At present, the only country besides Iran that has expressed an interest in seeking the seat reserved for Asia is Japan, which is the largest individual contributor to the United Nations after the United States and has been re-elected to the council regularly, most recently for the 2005-06 term.
Iran, a founding member of the United Nations, has not held a council seat since the 1955-56 term.
Vietnam currently fills a second Asian seat and presides over the council for the month of July. Vietnam’s council term expires in December 2009.
Iranian officials have been sending mixed signals in the country’s nuclear confrontation with Western nations.
In the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told fellow Muslim leaders Tuesday that he sees no chance of war with the United States or Israel.
“We’re making the utmost effort for providing peace and security at the world level,” he told reporters at a summit of eight Islamic developing countries, an alternative gathering to the Group of Eight industrialized nations meeting in Japan.
“Don’t worry; there won’t be any war in the future. Mainly [Israel and the United States] are focusing on some sort of propaganda or psychological war,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said.
“The economic, political and military situation will not lead [President] Bush to do that. Everybody knows this fact,” he added.
A day before Mr. Ahmadinejad made his comments, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the country would retaliate against any military strike by targeting Tel Aviv and U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.
Ali Shirazi, a cleric who represents Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the guards’ naval force, said, “The Zionist regime is pushing the White House to prepare for a military strike on Iran. … If such a stupidity is done by them, Tel Aviv and the U.S. naval fleet in the Persian Gulf will be the first targets which will be set on fire in Iran’s crushing response,” the Associated Press reported.