The United States is exploiting the protests in Iran in order to derail the landmark nuclear deal with the Middle East country, Russia’s ambassador to the UN alleged.
The comments late on Friday came after the US called an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council to address the deadly demonstrations that began in late December in Iran.
“The United States is abusing the platform of the Security Council. Let Iran deal with its own problems,” said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.
“The real reason for convening today is not protect human rights or promote the interests of the Iranian people, but rather a veiled attempt to continue to undermine the Iranian nuclear agreement.”
Envoys from several other countries – from China to newcomer Equatorial Guinea – also expressed reservations about whether the council was the right forum for the issue.
Almost a week of sometimes violent protests left at least 22 people dead, with Iranian authorities accusing the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of involvement.
The demonstrations were the most significant anti-government reaction since 2009 protests against alleged election irregularities.
Nebenzia said if the UN Security Council followed the reasoning behind convening the meeting over domestic protests in Iran, it should have met after demonstrations in the US following the killing of African American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in the state of Missouri in 2014.
France’s ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council the protests in Iran did not require a meeting before the international body.
“However worrying the events of the last few days in Iran may be they do not constitute per se a threat to international peace and security,” Ambassador Francois Delattre said.
“We must be wary of any attempts to exploit this crisis for personal ends, which would have the diametrically opposed outcome to that which is wished.”
Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said the United States had abused its power as a permanent member of the Security Council by calling the emergency meeting.
“It is unfortunate that despite the resistance on the part of some of its members, this council has allowed itself to be abused by the current US administration in holding a meeting on an issue that falls outside the scope of its mandate,” said Khoshroo.
He added his government has “hard evidence” the recent protests in Iran were “very clearly directed from abroad”.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, argued the demonstrations were a human rights issue that could spiral into an international problem.
“The Iranian regime is now on notice. The world will be watching what you do,” Haley said.
The UN charter empowers to the council to “investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction”, she said.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft concurred with Haley.
“It is right and proper – indeed, our responsibility … to assess whether a situation like this could become a threat to international peace and security,” Rycroft said.
An estimated 42,000 people took part in the protests, according to Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. Tens of thousands of people, meanwhile, have attended pro-government rallies in recent days.
US President Donald Trump has called the international nuclear agreement with Iran “the worst deal ever”.
Trump must decide by January 12 whether he will re-certify the deal, which he didn’t do as required in October.