Iran’s nuke threat is overhyped: UN official

Experts call on world powers for nuclear disarmament

By Shafaat Shahbandari      6 March 2013

Dubai: The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is overhyped, and there is no evidence suggesting that the country has or intends to produce weapons of mass destruction, a UN expert on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) said at a forum in Dubai on Tuesday.

Dr Hans Blix, Head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), said during a talk at Capital Club that with North Korea making a nuclear bomb test detonation, the world should focus more on tackling the state that has violated the NPT.

“So far Iran has not violated NPT and there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons. The fact that Tehran has enriched uranium up to 20 per cent leads to suspicion of a secret weapons programme, however, no action can be justified on mere suspicions or intentions that may not exist,” said Dr Blix, who is the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

With a stockpile of more than 20,000 nuclear warheads still sitting with five UN Security Council members, and with Israel, Pakistan and India also possessing declared nuclear weapons, many suggest that the NPT has failed in its objective of nuclear disarmament. Dr Blix agrees partially.

“The primary objective of NPT was to contain profileration, which it has succeeded in doing to a certain extent as most signatory states don’t posses nukes and don’t have a programme. But those who already have nuclear weapons have not disarmed yet which is a concern,” said Dr Blix, who was also Sweden’s former minister of foreign affairs.

However, he added that since the time the treaty was signed most of the nuclear armed states have reduced their stockpile from a combined 50,000 warheads to the current number of 20,000, which is enough to obliterate the world 10 times over.

Suggesting the best way to counter the nuclear threat in the region, he said: “Countries from the Middle East should propose a nuclear-free zone in the region, which is a way to make sure the region is safe from any nuclear-armed state.”

He said that a recent attempt by Middle Eastern countries to initiate talks on forming a nuclear-free zone in the region was sabotaged by Israel and the US.

Currently, Israel is the only country in the region that has known nuclear warheads, while Iran has achieved the capability to make nuclear bombs, though it has repeatedly claimed that it doesn’t intend to produce nuclear weapons.

US and its allies are continuously suggesting that with its capability to enrich weapons grade uranium, Iran is a threat to the region.

Michael Elleman, a Senior Fellow for Regional Security Cooperation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Middle East (IISS) and another speaker at the forum agreed.

“Though there is no evidence of Iran producing nuclear weapons, it certainly has the ability, which is a concern. With its missiles it can directly hit countries like UAE and its neighbours and they have a reason to worry,” said Ellerman.

However, both Ellerman and Dr.Blix agreed that, even if Iran has any plans to produce nuclear weapons, war is not the solution. “Attacking Iran won’t serve the purpose, it will further destabilise the region.”

Both also agreed that rather than focusing on those countries that don’t posses nuclear weapons, world powers should do more to destroy existing nuclear weapons.

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Also see : UN Official Hans Blix: Iran Nuke Threat is Overhyped