Monday, January 30, 2006

DA questions cost of SA's support for Iran

Cape Town, South Africa
30 January 2006 03:49

South African support for Iran -- and Iran's opposition to a plan to have it referred to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear programme -- is a decision that will not come "without a significant cost", says opposition Democratic Alliance chief whip Douglas Gibson.

The DA MP said in a statement on Monday: "There is a very real possibility that by supporting Iran, that the government now runs the risk of alienating a significant section of world opinion and precisely those countries which are our biggest trading partners."

It was reported in national South African newspapers on Monday that Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, made a surprise visit to South Africa where he appeared to win guarded South African support -- together with Cuban and Malaysian support -- to oppose Western plans to refer Iran to the Security Council about its nuclear programme.

South Africa, Cuba and Malaysia's foreign ministers were at Hermanus at the weekend to discuss an upcoming Non-Aligned Movement summit.

Gibson said: "It appears that President [Thabo] Mbeki has decided that supporting Iran is worth the cost of alienating some of South Africa's most important strategic allies, such as Germany, France, Britain, the United States and the European Union itself."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has adopted "a very determined stance" against nuclear proliferation generally, and Iranian nuclear ambitions specifically. She has accused Iran of having crossed a "red line".

Gibson said further: "Without the support of these vitally important countries, there is little chance that South Africa will be able to achieve the level of economic growth that is critical to roll back unemployment.

"The reality is that those states most directly affected by Iran's nuclear programme, including Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States, are firmly opposed to an Iranian nuclear capacity for the simple reason that it directly affects their national security.

"In recent times, Iran has done little to indicate to the world that it is a responsible actor in world affairs, as its belligerent attitude to Israel's existence has so clearly illustrated.

"Therefore, the excuse given by the South African government and Iran's other allies that everybody is entitled to a nuclear programme under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for peaceful purposes does not hold much water.

"In the midst of this complex geopolitical context, South Africa has to tread carefully. South Africa would be much better served to move beyond its policy of accommodation with Tehran, no matter its actions and join the broader global community in sending a message to Iran that it cannot embark on provocative actions such as unilaterally removing the seals on its facilities for enriching uranium and expect to get away with it.

"Bitter historical experience has shown that the government has made a habit of choosing to support the pariahs of the world, including Sudan, Libya and Zimbabwe.

"It is therefore high time that we learned from past mistakes and used our considerable moral authority on the question of nuclear disarmament for the greater good of international peace and stability, rather than simply protecting at any cost an increasingly dangerous actor on the international stage," Gibson stated. -- I-Net Bridge