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A Middle East Free of WMD

Iran is a responsible nation and wants to see stability in the region. The west should support us

By Manouchehr Mottaki

05/01/08 "
The Guardian" - -- -In 1892 Lord Curzon, who would later become Conservative foreign secretary, published Persia and the Persian Question. In his analysis he described a land that offered the region's strongest potential bulwark against disorder, and identified the most critical impediment to its growth, prosperity and stability. "Persia has nothing," he said, in concordance with the then Iranian prime minister, "without railways." The Iranian Question of today echoes the priorities of the late 19th century.

Today, Iran has no economic backbone without energy security and diversity. From Delhi to Istanbul, instability and crisis cuts a swath across the continent. There is no point on that map that can more effectively address the region's plight - a plight created by the failure of western powers to accept their international responsibilities.

In its support for a myriad of aggressions over the past half century - from the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet army to Saddam's attack on Iran - western military and intelligence has fomented an instability with consequences beyond the region itself.

The democratic rhetoric of the west counts for nothing when foreign policy is dictated by self-interest, as witnessed by its brazen disregard of the outcomes of democratic elections in Algeria and Palestine. Attempts to demonise Iran are exposed as hollow when you consider that the accusers are those responsible for the outrages of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay.

In Iran we are trying to defend our independence, to meet the needs of our young, to advance society, and to steer the ship of the Middle East in these turbulent waters to calm shores. However, a pressing problem for Iran today concerns the need for - and development of - energy security and diversity.

In the closing weeks of 2007, the report by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US National Intelligence Estimate made it clear Iran's nuclear activities have nothing to do with military programmes but are motivated by a desire to preserve peaceful nuclear knowledge and capability for future generations. This knowledge and capability, with "security and stability", can propel Iran on the path of progress. We must strive to combine the two and thereby forestall any confrontation and threat.

We need to go beyond setting "preconditions" for negotiations with Iran, and try to present constructive proposals. Iran has demonstrated that it is a responsible nation. It has shown itself to be a predictable nation. It respects international law and strives to play its role in preventing escalation of regional crises resulting from illicit trade in narcotics, extremism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Tehran's cooperation with the IAEA underlines the honesty and sincerity of our nuclear programme, our commitment to proceeding with care, and respect for international rules. We cannot tolerate the biased and discriminatory attitude we encounter. All members of the international community should be made to adhere to the non-proliferation treaty, not simply a selected few.

Over recent years, Iran has proudly promoted a historic idea: a "Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction". What clearer illustration could there be of our peaceful aspirations for the region. Attempts to besmirch Iran's reputation are absurd - Iran's destiny cannot be considered in isolation from the collective destiny of the international community. The two are inextricable.

Enough, then, of the threats and aggression. Let these outdated tactics be consigned to history. Iran must be supported, without prejudice, as it endeavours to provide peaceful nuclear knowledge and capability for future generations.

· Manouchehr Mottaki is the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran mottaki@iran-embassy.org.uk

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