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UK bishops say EU, US needs more flexible approach towards Iran

London, Sept 19, IRNA-Both the US and the EU need to adopt more flexible policy approaches towards Iran and accept the country's nuclear ambitions, according to a new report from the Church of England's House of Bishops published Monday.

"A policy based on hardened rhetoric and a further distancing of diplomatic relations between Iran and the rest of the world risks hastening Iran's crossing of the nuclear threshold," the bishops warned.

Instead of what amounted to the "worst possible outcome at the present time," they suggested that guiding principles should be used in the context of a joint strategy that has the best chance of influencing Iran's cost-benefit analysis.

"The combined prospects of a normalization of American-Iranian relations, US abandonment of stigmatization of Iran as a rogue state, the lifting of economic sanctions and closer social contact between Iran and the United States could help the international context of the discussion and decisions," the bishops suggested.

Their proposals were made in a report on ways to Countering Terrorism, Power, Violence and Democracy Post 9/11.

"We look at Iran as a kind if a test case of what a Christian approach to the international order should entail," the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt. Rev. Richard Harries said in a preface to the report.

It examined the "legitimate grievances" that drives Iran's nuclear program and analyzes the concerns of west, while pleading for "understanding" and for "greater clarity."

"The public and political rhetoric that Iran is a rogue regime, an outpost of tyranny, is as fallacious as the Iranian description of the US as the Great Satan," the bishops said.

In particular, they criticized the US for emotively discrediting Iran as part of an "axis of evil," saying that it only diminishes any chance of reconciliation.

"To label a country's government as 'evil' risks putting that country beyond the pale by indicating that there is something monstrous or incomprehensible in that state's actions. In the case of Iran, this is erroneous," said the report.

It suggested that recognizing Iran's "heterogeneity" would be an important step in "challenging the way in which Western media and political analysts portray Iran in stereotypical terms that reinforce public ignorance an prejudice."

"At times Western political discourse towards Iran seems ideologically driven with the intention of reinforcing and playing to the prejudices and fears of domestic constituent" and was "hardly a secure position from which to develop policies," the bishops said.

They also suggested that the west needed to acknowledge not only its interference in the internal affairs of Iran prior to 1979, but also "the way in which it allowed its own self-interest to determine its position during the Iran-Iraq war."

"Without such a public acknowledgement of our own complicity in creating this situation, it is difficult to see how any long-term reconciliation between Iran and the international community might be facilitated," the report warned.

The bishops, who opposed the Iraq war, rejected any threatened invasion of Iran as having "nothing to commend it" as well as warning that any unilateral strikes by either the US or Israel could accelerate any Iranian move to acquire a nuclear capability.

"It is difficult to envisage how either of the above policies could pass the rigorous ethical tests provided by the just war tradition," they said.

Any military attack, the report further warned, would be seen as an "offensive rather than a defensive measure" and questions would raise questions whether any attack was "nothing more than an act of aggression and a breach of the peace."

As an alternative to the US covert regime change policy was to open Iran up to outside economic and social influences, which it suggested would entail lifting both primary and secondary American sanctions as well as allowing the country to join the WTO.

"The US needs to be convinced to keep open the option of a 'grand bargain' that enables Iran's ambitions to be addressed in a wider context," the working group of Church of England bishops said.

Their proposal included the need to remove Iran's regional security concerns as part of a negotiated settlement in which the EU and US needed to "accept an Iranian nuclear energy program." "It is disappointing, therefore, that the EU3 did not use the Framework Agreement to offer more substantial, detailed incentives on security and trade or a creative compromise on enrichment," the report said in criticizing the proposal made in August.

On the other side of the Atlantic, it suggested that the US had offered "little other than political rhetoric in terms of viable strategic alternatives."

Overall, the bishops believed there should be movement towards a oint strategy as the basis of a broad framework, with an "American willingness to normalize relations with Iran," while the Europeans showed willingness move the other way to use economic pressure.

... Payvand News - 9/19/05 ... --

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