‘Disarmament conference demonstrated Iran’s commitment to NPT’

April 19, 2010

TEHRAN – Alexander Pikayev, the director of Russia’s CNS Non-Proliferation Project, says Iran demonstrated its strong commitment to nuclear disarmament and to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by hosting the Tehran nuclear disarmament conference.

A number of major international figures, nuclear experts, and foreign ministers as well as anti-nuclear weapons campaigners and representatives of international and non-governmental organizations attended the Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for No One conference, which was held in Tehran from April 17 to 18.
The Tehran nuclear disarmament conference “demonstrates Iranian commitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” Pikayev told the Tehran Times in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.
Pikayev also said the Nuclear Posture Review released by the U.S. fell far short of expectations of the Obama administration since it made no commitment that the U.S. would not be the first to use nuclear weapons and also did not withdraw nuclear weapons from Europe and also retained the option to use nuclear arms against Iran and North Korea.
“Frankly speaking, I think the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review is very controversial,” he noted.
Following is an excerpt of the interview:
Q: How do you assess the conference?
A: I think that the idea to have this conference is very important because it demonstrates Iranian commitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Representatives of many countries have been invited here and the theme of the conference provides an opportunity for broad international dialogue and exchange of opinions to countries. In comparison to the nuclear summit in Washington, this conference represents a combination of high-ranking government officials and non-governmental people from a lot of countries around the world. It will help promote more productive discussions and the expression of more honest -- so to speak -- opinions.
Q: Total nuclear disarmament is a difficult goal and will certainly take many years to realize, if it can ever be realized. What should we do now as the first step and how do you see the long-term prospects for total disarmament?
A: Well, there are commitments to negotiations on nuclear disarmament and Article 6 of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entails international legal commitment to nuclear disarmament. And it means the nuclear states need to continue the talks. An agreement reached between Russia and the United States on the new strategic arms reduction treaty (new START). This is not the last step definitely. At least Russia has raised the issue of further disarmament. During the talks with the U.S., Russia favored greater oversight. Unfortunately, the United States refused, but we hope the U.S. will agree to another round of negotiations.
And there is a problem with three other nuclear powers, members of the NPT, the UK, France, and China. These countries have consistently refused to participate in negotiations on nuclear disarmament, but at least they could make unilateral voluntary decisions to reduce their nuclear arsenals. And there are also four other sates outside the NPT, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. Israel and North Korea, under certain conditions, have already said they might relinquish their nuclear weapons. It is important to push them in that direction. India and Pakistan are more difficult cases because they don’t even want to voluntarily halt the nuclear build-up. But non-nuclear powers… must take steps. Particularly, I want to mention European countries because some European countries possess military capabilities to carry nuclear weapons (on missiles) and use them during war. This can be construed as a direct violation of their obligations under the NPT, and I believe that they need to reconsider the policy and they need to change or convert the carriers so that they are no longer able to carry nuclear weapons. So this is very important.
Q: Do you think it is possible to set a rough timetable for the total eradication of nuclear weapons?
A: Well, U.S. President Obama had a talk a year ago in Prague where he called for the first time for a world free of nuclear weapons, but he admitted that he himself will not survive to that time. Mr. Obama is quite a politician and the U.S. does not expect this abolition within the next 40 to 50 years. In 1985, former Soviet president Gorbachev presented his own (proposal for) a nuclear weapons-free world and the deadline was the year 2000. Now it is 2010. On the one hand, I think the vague deadlines, like Mr. Obama used, they raise suspicions of hypocrisy. On the one hand, he proclaimed (the goal of) a nuclear weapons-free world, but on the other hand he did not establish a deadline. However, artificial deadlines are also not very credible. We will not have nuclear weapons ten years from now hopefully, but this is not realistic.
Q: In its nuclear doctrine announced on April 8, the Obama administration left open the option to use nuclear weapons against Iran. How do you assess this doctrine?
A: Frankly speaking, I think the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review is very controversial. There were expectations that the Obama administration would make it consistent with its own promises, particularly with what President Obama said a year ago. The United States did not make a decision to withdraw nuclear weapons from Europe; the U.S. did not relinquish the option of using nuclear weapons first; and they made very strange statements, saying the U.S. supports the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea and Iran.
Q: Do you think there is a major difference between the Tehran conference and the nuclear summit in the U.S.?
A: The Washington summit was politicized. The list of the invited nations was quite strange. Countries like Iran and North Korea were not invited at all, but some other countries, which have very limited capability in the nuclear area, were invited. The U.S. followed its own selfish, egoistic political interests. Here different countries were invited, and it was also very important to involve North Korea in the talks. Unfortunately, the Western nations had a weaker presentation.
Q: What is Russia’s position on the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program? Do you think sanctions are an effective way to resolve the issue?
A: We are against sanctions. We fully recognize Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, and we delivered fresh fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, and the plant will be operational in a few months from now.
Q: Iran has presented a proposal for a nuclear fuel swap. Why do you think there has been no move so far by the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany)?
A: Well, there are disagreements. It seems Moscow is more inclined to accept the Iranian position, but unfortunately, for the United States, it is unacceptable to make this exchange on Iranian territory.
Q: Why is Russia delaying the delivery of the S-300 missile system to Iran?
A: Russia is facing blackmail by the U.S. and Israel.