Status of the Bilateral Meetings between South Africa and Iran

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR ORAL REPLY

QUESTION NO: 177

PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO 26 OF 29 AUGUST 2006

MR DHM GIBSON (DA) TO ASK THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

(1) Whether she made use of the recent bilateral meetings with the Iranian Foreign Minister to discuss Iran's funding, support and arming of Hezbollah; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details;

(2) Whether Iran can pursue its nuclear programme without exciting suspicion that it is embarking on a weapons development programme; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details. N1342

REPLY:

(1) No.

The issue of Iran's support for Hezbollah was not discussed during my recent bilateral meetings with Mr. Manouchehr Motakki, the Iranian Foreign Minister. Moreover, the South African Government has no specific knowledge of Iran's funding of Hezbollah.

(2) Yes- If Iran works closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and keep to the safeguards. Iran has on various occasions stated at the IAEA Board Meetings and during bilateral consultations that it will use its nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes only and has consistently denied that it has any nuclear weapons ambitions. Although various allegations have been made regarding the nature of the Iranian nuclear programme, it is important to note that the IAEA has not to date found any evidence in Iran of the diversion of capabilities for non-peaceful activities. South Africa's position on this matter can only be informed by the facts presented and not by unverified allegations or suspicions. The Government will continue to uphold the principles contained in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that provides for the inalienable rights of all NPT State Parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in conformity with Articles I, II and III of the Treaty.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Question 1

Iran's Relationship with Hezbollah

Prior to the rise of the Shia in Iraq, Hezbollah was Iran's main asset in the Arab world. In fact, it likely will continue to be used by Tehran as a key tool for furthering Iranian geopolitical interests in the region, until such time as Shia power has been consolidated in Baghdad and Iran's interests there secured.

In its earliest days, Hezbollah was a classic militant organization -- the creation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite unit of the Iranian military. It was founded as a way to export the ideals of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini's Islamic revolution to the Shia community of Lebanon, and served as a model for follow-on organizations (some even using the same name) in other Arab states. It did not take long, however, for Hezbollah to emerge in Lebanon as a guerrilla movement, whose fighters were trained in conventional military tactics.

Iran has been Hezbollah's chief source of funding and weapons over the years, and the Iranians continue to supply extensive training in weapons, tactics, communications, surveillance and other methods to the militant wing of Hezbollah in Lebanon. The relationship is sufficiently close that the Hezbollah branch within Iran recently declared it would unleash militant attacks against Israelis and Americans around the world if given the order by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Tehran insists that Hezbollah is not an arm of official policy.)


Question 2

The most recent report of the IAEA Director-General is attached herewith.





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