UN Security Council divided over Iran protests

A Security Council meeting on the protests roiling Iran showed Tehran “the world will be watching” its actions, the US ambassador said Friday.But Russia and France said the international community had no business weighing in.

The US called the meeting after giving moral support to the anti-government protesters in a week of demonstrations and counterdemonstrations.

US President Donald Trump and members of his administration have praised the anti-government demonstrators as people standing up to a repressive and corrupt regime that is trying to silence them.

“The world should applaud their courage” and amplify their message, said UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, portraying the protests as a human rights issue that could spill over into an international problem. “The Iranian regime is now on notice: The world will be watching what you do.”

But Russia and Iran complained tartly that the US was dragging the UN’s most powerful body into what they called a domestic matter.

“The United States is abusing the platform of the Security Council,” said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, whose country has close ties to Iran. “Let Iran deal with its own problems.”

The UN charter empowers the council to “investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction”, and the US wasn’t alone in thinking the Iranian protests qualified.

“It is right and proper – indeed, our responsibility … to assess whether a situation like this could become a threat to international peace and security,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said before the meeting.

Dutch Ambassador Karel van Oosterom said his country hoped the meeting could “work as a preventive measure to avoid further escalation of violence”. He called on the Iranian government to set up a process to address any serious human rights violations and hold accountable anyone involved.

At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds arrested amid the anti-government protests and unrest over the country’s economic woes.

Up to 42,000 people took part in the protests, according to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, who has said the clerically overseen government exhibited “tolerance” towards the demonstrations.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people have attended pro-government rallies in recent days. Authorities say the anti-government protests are waning.

France reiterated that Iran must respect the rights of protesters, but French Ambassador François Delattre said the “events of the past days do not constitute a threat to peace and international security”.
He urged the council to react carefully, “with all the vigilance required … but guarding against any exploitation of this crisis, which would only reinforce the extremes”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ridiculed Trump on Saturday over what he called the foreign policy “blunder” of trying to raise its recent protests at the UN Security Council.

The Security Council “rebuffed the US’ naked attempt to hijack its mandate”, wrote Zarif on Twitter.
“Majority emphasised the need to fully implement the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and to refrain from interfering in internal affairs of others. Another FP (foreign policy) blunder for the Trump administration.”

China also described the meeting as meddling in Iran’s affairs, while Ethiopia, Kuwait and Sweden expressed reservations about the discussion.

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