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The UN Security Council responded to a request from Iran on Thursday and condemned the deadliest terrorist attack in the country in years, extending "sincere condolences" to the Iranian people - but not to the government, at US insistence.
Acting US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said it was "a rich irony" that a government which rejects the Security Council's authority and has refused to implement a council resolution demanding suspension of its uranium enrichment program asked the council to adopt a statement condemning the attack.
"We rejoice in the fact that the government recognizes that the council is the supreme body to deal with issues of international peace and security," Wolff said. "It recognizes the council's legitimacy, and now we call on the government of Iran to implement its obligations under existing Security Council resolutions and respect them the way it sought our respect for recognition of this terrorist act."
The Security Council is expected to receive a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency next week on Iran's compliance with the resolution demanding it suspend enrichment of uranium, which can lead to production of nuclear weapons. The resolution, adopted on Dec. 23, imposed sanctions on Iran and warned that it would adopt further nonmilitary sanctions if Teheran refuses to comply.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who proposed the press statement at the request of Iran's UN Mission, expressed hope that the council's approval will have "a positive spillover" on the nuclear issue and lead to improved relations between Iran and the Security Council.
"We hope it will have that effect - that the Security Council and Iran are getting re-engaged," Churkin said. "Maybe we cannot read too much into it, but I do believe that it's important that the Iranian delegation chose to turn to the Security Council in this context, and it is also very important that the Security Council chose to respond strongly, positively and quickly."
He said some other council members - whom he did not name - shared Russia's hope that the statement would have a positive effect "in the overall relationship between the council and Iran, which has not been easy lately."
Initial reports said Wednesday's bombing took place near Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province near the Pakistani border, when a car packed with explosives pulled to a stop in front of a bus carrying members of the Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards. The attack killed 11 members of the unit.
A Sunni Muslim group called Jundallah, or God's Brigade, which has been blamed for past attacks on Iranian troops, claimed responsibility, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.
The press statement adopted by the Security Council and read by its current president, Slovakia's UN Ambassador Peter Burian, said the attack on a bus killed at least 18 people and wounded many more. The Revolutionary Guards were not mentioned.
"The members of the Security Council reiterated that no cause can justify the use of terrorist violence. They underlined the need to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of this terrorist attack, as with all terrorist attacks," the statement said.
"The members of the Security Council extended their sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Iranian people," it said.
The United States insisted that a phrase sending condolences to the government of Iran as well be dropped.
"It's a very important point," Wolff said, "because the Iranian government has said they don't recognize the legitimacy of the Security Council - and it's the Iranian people who merit our condolences for terrorist acts and any suffering they incur."
Churkin said the council looked back at previous statements on terrorist attacks and several referred only to the people who suffered.
"In a number of ways it's more proper and even better to refer to the people and not one individual branch of government," he said. "The important thing is that ... once again the Security Council showed its abhorrence of acts of terrorism."
Churkin said Russia believes that if a country subjected to a terrorist attack "turns to the Security Council for some moral and political support" the council must deliver that support because fighting terrorism is a UN priority.