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US ambassadors to boycott UN disarmament body over Iran role

People attend the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on January 26, 2011
People attend the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on January 26, 2011. The United States will boycott meetings of the UN Conference on Disarmament this year when Iran takes over the body this month, a US spokeswoman said Monday.

United States ambassadors will boycott meetings of the UN Conference on Disarmament when Iran takes over the body this month, a US spokeswoman said Monday.

Iran, and any nation facing sanctions for its weapons program, should be "barred" from holding formal UN positions, argued Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the US mission at the United Nations.

Iran will take over presidency of the disarmament conference from May 27 until June 23 under an alphabetical rotation among the 65 member states.

The conference is struggling to craft a deal on nuclear disarmament, preventing arms from spreading to outer space and halting the development of other weapons of mass destruction.

Iran meanwhile faces four rounds of UN sanctions over its nuclear program.

Iran's presidency is "unfortunate and highly inappropriate," said Pelton. "The United States will not be represented at the ambassadorial level during any meeting presided over by Iran."

"The United States continues to believe that countries that are under Chapter VII sanctions for weapons proliferation or massive human-rights abuses should be barred from any formal or ceremonial positions in UN bodies."

Pelton acknowledged that the conference presidency is largely ceremonial with no responsibilities.

But she added that "allowing Iran -- a country that is in flagrant violation of its obligations under multiple UN Security Council resolutions and to the IAEA board of governors -- to hold such a position runs counter to the goals and objectives of the Conference on Disarmament itself," said the spokeswoman.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is responsible for investigating Iran's nuclear program, which western nations say hides a bid to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charge.

Iran's position heading the conference has also angered non-government lobby groups.

"This is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women's shelter," said Hillel Neuer, head of the Geneva-based UN Watch, announcing the organization would organize protest events involving Iranian dissidents.

"Iran is an international outlaw state that illegally supplies rockets to Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, aiding and abetting mass murder and terrorism," said Neuer, whose organization is affiliated with the American Jewish Committee.

The conference was launched in 1979 to try to stem the Cold War arms race.

Iran takes over the conference presidency from Indonesia and at the end of June hands over to Iraq.

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