Tehran, Iran – Iran’s United Nations ambassador says Saudi Arabia is trying to use Iran as an excuse to develop nuclear arms after a Saudi minister said the kingdom reserves the right to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
In tweets in Farsi and English, Iran’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, Kazem Gharibabadi, said “scapegoating and fearmongering are two common and classic methods used by demagogues”.
“If you want to pursue a nuclear weapon programme, or you are seeking for an excuse to justify your lack of cooperation with the IAEA or your outdated safeguard system, at least have the courage to admit it and pay the price for it,” he said in reference to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Don’t blame your wrongdoings on others by lies.”
The Iranian official’s comments come shortly after Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said Saudi Arabia reserves the right to arm itself with nuclear weapons if Iran cannot be stopped from making one.
“It’s definitely an option,” he told the dpa news agency in an interview, adding Saudi Arabia “will do everything it can to protect its people and to protect its territories”.
The comments by Saudi Arabia also come on the heels of a call by Saudi monarch King Salman bin Abdulaziz for the world to take a “decisive stance” to address Iran’s efforts to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
In response, Iran urged the kingdom to refrain from “baseless allegations and hate-mongering”.
Tehran has pursued a nuclear programme for decades but insists it only wishes to use nuclear power peacefully.
More than 10 years ago, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa – a legal or general decree in Islam by a religious authority or court and issued by a Mufti – declaring all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, a “serious threat against humanity”.
“The Iranian nation is itself a victim of the use of chemical weapons,” Khamenei wrote in reference to the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that ended in 1988.
“It feels the threat of development and proliferation of these weapons more than other nations and is ready to use all its resources to combat it.”
In 2015, Iran signed a landmark nuclear deal with world powers that significantly curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of multilateral sanctions.
In May 2018, US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the deal and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran.
After a year of remaining committed to the deal under sanctions, Iran gradually scaled back its commitments under the deal but has said it will come back to full compliance if the US does so first and lifts sanctions.
A confidential IAEA report to member countries seen by news agencies last week said Iran has stockpiled low-enriched uranium 12 times more than the limit set by the nuclear accord while also failing to provide a credible explanation about the presence of nuclear material in undeclared sites.
The IAEA said Iran has been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 percent, which is higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the nuclear deal but far below the 90 percent required for weaponised use.