Tim Witcher, AFP
Last updated: 19 November, 2011

UN vote on Saudi envoy plot ups pressure on Iran

The UN General Assembly on Friday demanded that Iran cooperate with an investigation into an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi envoy to Washington, widening the diplomatic divide between Tehran and its Western rivals.

The Iranian and US ambassadors to the United Nations linked a resolution overwhelmingly passed by the 193-member General Assembly to tensions over Iran’s nuclear drive.

The Saudi resolution on the plot was passed with 106 votes in favor, nine against and 40 abstentions. The United States accuses Iran of masterminding the plot. Iran strongly denies involvement.

The General Assembly said it was “deeply concerned” by the alleged plot against Saudi envoy Adel al-Jubeir.

The resolution called on Iran “to comply with all of its obligations under international law” and “cooperate with states seeking to bring to justice all those who participated in the planning, sponsoring, organization and attempted execution of the plot.”

Saudi Arabia did not directly accuse Iran. Its UN ambassador, Abdullah al Mouallimi, told the assembly however that Tehran had been implicated “in the confessions of the main culprit behind this plot.

“Justice demands that we give full opportunity to the Islamic Republic of Iran to come clean and prove its innocence if it is not involved in this plot,” he said.

Iran’s ambassador Mohammad Khazaee called the resolution “mind-boggling” as nobody had yet been found guilty in court of organizing a plot.

He said the action was “based on an unsubstantiated claim by a state which has a long history of animosity against my country” — a reference to the United States.

Khazaee said the resolution risked “creating tension in international relations.”

US ambassador Susan Rice told the assembly: “We cannot let this plot go unanswered. To do so would suggest that acts like these are within the bounds of acceptable behavior to resolve international conflicts.”

An Iranian-American, Manssor Arbabsiar, pleaded not guilty to involvement in the plot in a New York court last month. An Iranian, Gholam Shakuri, is still wanted and said to be in Iran.

Arbabsiar has allegedly said he organized the hit on behalf of a cousin, whom he described as a high-ranking officer in the Quds Force, a special operations unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

China voted against the resolution and Russia, Brazil, South Africa and India were among UN Security Council members who abstained.

The General Assembly vote came only hours after the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna voted a resolution condemning Iran over its nuclear program.

The West accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear bomb, a charge the Islamic republic has repeatedly denied.

“Iran is increasingly isolated, here in this body at the United Nations in New York, again today in Vienna,” Rice told reporters after the vote.

“I think this is indicative of the world’s growing abhorrence with their behavior, including their support for terrorism, their pursuit of a nuclear weapons program and their gross violations of human rights.”

The Iranian ambassador said the General Assembly resolution and the IAEA condemnation could be “inter-related”.

“I think that since even the latest report of the IAEA could not prove any diversion, so maybe they wanted to find another way to accuse Iran,” he said of the resolution.