April 16, 2006

Rafsanjani warns of regional instability if attacked

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Any U.S. attack on Iran over its
nuclear programme would plunge the region into instability,
former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said on

"We do not discount the possibility of U.S. aggression
under any circumstance; we stress at the same time that it
would not be in the interest of the United States, nor us," the
influential Rafsanjani said during a visit to Syria.

The United States says Iran appears intent on making an
atomic bomb and all options are on the table to try to prevent
it. But Washington says it is pursuing the diplomatic course
and rejects reports it is stepping up plans for a military

Rafsanjani said Tehran's nuclear programme, which he
reiterated was for peaceful purposes, would benefit the region,
which would also suffer from the fallout of any military

"Harm will not only engulf the Islamic Republic of Iran,
but the region and everybody," Rafsanjani, who heads a council
that arbitrates Iranian legislative disputes, told a news
conference with Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara.

Iran, whose population is mainly Shi'ite Muslim, has
regional influence through Shi'ite allies in Iraq and Lebanon.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who defeated
Rafsanjani in last year's elections, said on Tuesday Iran had
enriched uranium needed to make nuclear fuel and would
accelerate efforts to achieve industrial level enrichment.

The announcement deepened Iran's confrontation with the
United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United
Nations Security Council should consider Chapter Seven of the
U.N. Charter to force Iran to change its nuclear policy.

Chapter Seven makes a resolution mandatory under
international law for all U.N. members. It can lead to
sanctions and eventually the use of force if it specifically
calls for them or threatens "all necessary means."

"America and other countries want to issue a resolution
taking advantage of Chapter Seven. Could they achieve this? It
is doubtful," Rafsanjani said.

The Security Council is divided over how to deal with Iran.
Russia, one of the five permanent members on the council, said
the use of force will not resolve the confrontation.

France said it was in favor of negotiations and a military
strike was "not topical."