May 13, 2013
By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, May 13 (Reuters) – The United States on Monday said it was “highly inappropriate” for Iran to take over the rotating chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament this month and vowed that its ambassador would boycott any meeting led by the Tehran.

The world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum has been deadlocked for about 15 years. While the chairmanship of the Geneva-based body is largely ceremonial, it is a high-profile U.N. position.

“Iran’s upcoming rotation as President of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) is unfortunate and highly inappropriate,” Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said in a statement.

“The United States continues to believe that countries that are under Chapter VII (U.N.) sanctions for weapons proliferation or massive human-rights abuses should be barred from any formal or ceremonial positions in U.N. bodies,” she said.

Iran is under U.N., U.S., European Union and other international sanctions for refusing to halt a nuclear enrichment program that Tehran says is peaceful but Western nations and their allies suspect is aimed at giving it the capability to produce atomic weapons.

The United States and Europe have also accused Iran of violating a U.N. embargo of Iranian arms exports to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his attempts to defeat rebels seeking to overthrow him in the country’s two-year civil war.

“Allowing Iran … to hold such a position runs counter to the goals and objectives of the Conference on Disarmament itself,” Pelton said.

“As a result, the United States will not be represented at the ambassadorial level during any meeting presided over by Iran,” she said.

Iran’s U.N. mission did not have an immediate response to a request for comment. Iran will chair the conference for four weeks beginning on May 27.

The 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, created in 1978, negotiated biological and chemical weapons conventions but has been unable to carry out substantive work since 1998 because members could not agree on priorities.

A key proposed task for the panel has been to negotiate a halt to production of nuclear bomb-making fissile material. But that step has been blocked by Pakistan, which says it would put it at a permanent disadvantage to rival India.

Hillel Neuer, the head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group that monitors the work of the United Nations, said in a statement that the selection of Iran “is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women’s shelter.”

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