Iran has the right to develop nuclear power

By Mohammed Hossein Adeli

Financial Times

Published: February 18 2005

The declining influence of the United Nations and erosion of international co-operation is a growing danger in today's world, fuelled by US unilateralism.

Institutions such as the UN are the legacy of two world wars and bitter human experience, created for the cause of stable global relations. Their diminishing role creates an environment in which false allegations by one country can form the basis of action that would be illegitimate and ultimately very costly.

Is there any hope of justice for those who fall victim to such charges? The news of Iran in the past few weeks has been misleading a s it portrays the country as a menace that must be urgently dealt with. The basis of many of these claims is Iran's civil nuclear programme, which needs to be properly explained.

Iran started to develop its civil nuclear technology in 1974 with the help of the US, the UK, Germany and France. A study by Stanford Research Institute at that time estimated that Iran's nuclear power needs would be 20,000MW by 1996. Today, our programme is much more modest. We plan to be able to generate 7,000MW by 2025.

Iran is not alone in its pursuit of nuclear power. There are 440 commercial nuclear reactors located in 31 countries around the world and a further 284 research reactors in operation.

Iran wants to develop its civil nuclear power programme to change its energy portfolio in favour of clean and renewable sources, as recommended by the Kyoto protocol. If Iran does not resort to alternative sources of energy, including nuclear, its development will be seriously hampered. The country's domestic oil consumption stands at just under 1.7m barrels a day. Given that if unchecked Iran's domestic consumptionwill grow by 7-12 per cent a year over the next five to eight years, our oil exports, which are the backbone of the country's foreign exchange revenues, will grind to a halt.

So, what valid reason is there for Iran to deprive itself of such energy, especially when its technology has been achieved indigenously? Certainly, no government in Iran can afford to ignore its right to develop nuclear power for civilian purposes.

Iran has done its utmost to assure the world of its peaceful intentions. We have signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, as well as an additional protocol that allows intrusive inspections at short notice in line with the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and committed ourselves to continue on this course. In addition, when we entered political negotiations with the EU3 - the European Union member states Britain, France and Germany - we agreed to suspend temporarily all nuclear enrichment activities in order to build confidence.

As a result of several hundred days of intrusive and thorough inspections, the IAEA confirmed in its November 2004 report that the inspectors had uncovered no evidence of concealed nuclear activities or weapons programmes in Iran. The report specified that all declared material in Iran had been accounted for and had therefore not been diverted to prohibited activities. Trade and economic talks with the EU3 also underline the kind of efforts each side is taking to build confidence and trust in each other.

An indispensable requisite of such talks is the existence of a conducive environment, not an intimidating one. The former will increase the chance of success while the latter would only lead to failure. Certainly, labeling the diplomatic talks a failure before they have barely got off the ground creates a vicious circle.

Each of us in the international community needs to ask ourself: should a country be able to pursue its legitimate rights under international law? And when one country - in this instance Iran - does everything it can to re- assure the world of its intentions, including the temporary suspension of its civil nuclear activities on a voluntary basis as a confidence-building measure, why is it still branded a menace? We should not forget that the point of reference in these matters is what the IAEA believes and not what others speculate.

There is no logic in a situation in which, while things have been moving in the right direction since last year and when the temporary suspension of activities is still in place, the US has gone exactly the opposite way. If the intention is to create a safer world, should not progress be acknowledged and rewarded?

The writer is Iran's ambassador to the UK and was formerly central bank governor and deputy minister for foreign affairs on economic matters