Bangladesh minister did not ‘praise’ Iran nuke

Probir Bidhan

Probir Bidhan

A senior minister of Bangladesh, a close ally of the USA, has reportedly lauded the disputed nuclear capabilities of Muslim country Iran, which is currently facing sanctions from the European Union and potential threats of war from the USA and Israel. Such a statement made by Information and Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad was published on April 20 in Iran’s state news agency Islamic Republic News Agency or IRNA.

It is still unclear whether Azad actually meant what he told his Iranian counterpart Sayed Mohammad Hosseini in Libreville, Gabon on April 20, on the sidelines of the ninth session of Islamic Conference of Information Ministers.

Abul-Kalam-Azad, Bangladesh Information Minister

The conference was initiated by the OIC, the largest organisation of Islamic countries, to strengthen the ties among Muslims in the wake of ongoing ‘Islamophobia’, which aims to show a bad face of Islam. The OIC has set out a strategy to combat what it calls “rising intolerance against Islam and Muslims in the West”.

The Iranian minister proposed that Iran was ready to transfer its successes in fields of art, press and other cultural issues, peaceful nuclear energy, science and technology including Nanotechnology and Airspace to the Muslim countries including Bangladesh. As part of Iran’s campaign, he categorically said that the West was not happy with Iran’s scientific progresses because they were afraid that Tehran transfers its scientific achievements to other Muslim countries.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for “peaceful purposes only”.

Clarification by the foreign ministry

The government on April 23 came up with a statement contrary to the IRNA report. In a press release, the foreign ministry said the minister and his Iranian counterpart discussed matters relating to mutual interests of the two brotherly countries.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran paid a very public visit to Natanz, a uranium-enrichment facility - for peaceful nuclear power plants, Iran insists. The photograph was taken on 8th April, 2008. <<photo:New York Times

During the meeting, Azad emphasised on cooperation among the OIC member countries under the purview of Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) for the development of science and technology.

“The Bangladesh minister, during the meeting, reiterated Bangladesh’s stand in favour of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The news item by IRNA, in this respect, is a deviation from the fact,” the press release concludes.

But the issue is yet to be made clear by the minister himself because of its sensitivity in the current global situation over Iran’s nuclear matter. We hope, the minister will himself call the press and clarify the ambiguity.

Meanwhile, no reaction from the US side in this regard has been reported in media.

Plan to fight Islamophobia

The Gabon conference has undertaken short, medium and long-term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia which include creating funds for media campaigns to counter intolerance against Islam and discourage using the expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists.

It also asked member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilise success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights”.

The OIC, an organisation of 57 countries, has announced its plan to establish a satellite channel and promote investment in the media to fight Islamophobia and enhance exchange of information among the member states.

One of its resolutions says negative news in some Western media has resulted in negative stereotyping and racial discrimination and victimisation directed against Muslims.

Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful coexistence with all other religions and faiths, the OIC labelled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam.” It also added that Islamophobia manifested itself “through intolerance, discrimination, hostility and adverse public discourse.”

Status of Nuke Talks

The latest Iranian nuclear talks concluded in Istanbul on April 14, with both Iran and the six world powers describing them as positive and constructive. The six P5+1 members — the US, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany – have spearheaded diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to limit its nuclear programme.

After over a year of stalled talks, Iran and the Group 5+1 eventually accepted last month to resume their negotiations in Istanbul when two meetings were held, about 15 months after the last round of negotiations, which were also held in Istanbul, turned out fruitless. And the talks would resume in Iraqi capital Baghdad on May 23.

Iranian oil sanctions, if applied effectively and with continued international support from powerful EU and BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will continue to impair Iran’s crude oil exports. For countries serious about reforming Iran’s human rights abuses and nuclear ambitions, offering support of sanctions is the best option. Many already seem willing to do so.

Analysts say in a change from past failed negotiations, Iran has also hinted progress could be made if the sanctions imposed by the US and the EU were reviewed. The US Congress has recently debated a further round of sanctions against Iran’s energy, shipping, and mining sectors but President Obama has not yet commented on them.

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