Cuba and NAM respect Iran’s nuclear rights: diplomat

April 20, 2010

TEHRAN – Rodolfo Benitez Verson, the deputy permanent representative of Cuba to the United Nations, says Cuba and the Non-Aligned Movement respect Iran’s nuclear rights.

“We respect Iran’s right to have a program for peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” Verson told the Tehran Times in an interview conducted on Sunday on the sidelines of 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.
Following is an excerpt of the interview:
Q: What are the main challenges to nuclear disarmament?
A: First of all, I think nuclear disarmament is the highest priority in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. We continue to think that the danger that nuclear weapons pose to humanity is the biggest threat. So we should continue working on the concrete steps toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons. I think one of the biggest challenges is, of course, the fact that some countries still have nuclear weapons, and that includes the P5 but also some other countries outside of the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). And I think those countries, including those that are parties to the NPT, have the legal obligation to move forward toward nuclear disarmament. I think, at the present time, there is a tendency to emphasize the issue of non-proliferation, which is an important issue. But non-proliferation cannot be the final end. I think the final goal should be nuclear disarmament, and I think NPT members and all states of the international community have a legal and moral obligation to work toward that end.
Q: Iranian officials are concerned about U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent remarks threatening Iran with a nuclear attack. What is your viewpoint on this?
A: My personal position is that no state has the right to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against anybody else. We are for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and we are against any kind of use of nuclear weapons. We feel it is illegitimate, immoral, and illegal to use nuclear weapons in any case.
Q: What is your stance on Iran’s nuclear program?
A: On the Iranian nuclear issue, I think that Cuba’s position and my personal position are pretty clear. Iran’s legitimate right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes has to be respected. Of course, we support the intention announced by Iran to continue fulfilling its obligation within the framework of the NPT and to continue the collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency. But we fully defend, respect, and promote the legitimate right of Iran to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Q: Do you believe the illegal pressure imposed on Iran, which is an NPT signatory, will undermine other countries’ rights to gain full access to nuclear energy?
A: I think whatever situation that tends to undermine the legitimate right of any country to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is not acceptable. And we think that any concern that any state could have regarding the nuclear program of any state, including Iran, has to be solved in cooperation and in a peaceful manner within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency. We do not feel that the Security Council should have any role in these kinds of situations because then the situations tend to become politicized. We think that these kinds of issues should be resolved in a technical framework (at the) International Atomic Energy Agency. In this case, I am not talking only about Iran but I am talking about any concerns that any country could have about the nuclear program of any states party to the treaty.
Q: What about sanctions against Iran?
A: Cuba is against sanctions, not only against Iran but against any country. We feel that sanctions should only be applied as the last resort, when the peaceful way to solve the situation is not possible. In the case of Iran, we feel the sanctions applied by the Security Council are not the right thing to solve the issue. This is not only the position of Cuba. It is also the position of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Q: Iran needs fuel plates for the Tehran research reactor. Iran made a proposal for a fuel exchange on its territory, but Western countries oppose this proposal. What is your viewpoint?
A: I prefer not to comment on any specific proposal. I prefer to speak more on the principal positions. Again, we respect Iran’s right to have a program for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Whenever they feel a concrete way can accommodate that right, we totally respect that. And again, another role has to be played by the International Atomic Energy Agency as the only technical organization that is ready to monitor these kinds of situations.
Q: How do you evaluate Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA?
A: Cuba has strong representation in Vienna at the International Atomic Energy Agency. We are following the issue as Cuba’s first concern. We are happy with the cooperation of Iran with the IAEA. We have been following the reports presented by the agency. If some other countries feel that there are some elements of concern, I think they have the right to raise this issue, but it would have to be in the technical framework and would have to be in the framework of peaceful cooperation. Again, we do not feel that in these kinds of situations, situations of concern, other organs, including the Security Council, have any role to play.