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A world free of nuclear arms

· The wish confirmed in a letter by U.S. Bishops ·

The path of diplomacy must be a priority to resolve the disputes between states and the use of force can never be first solution. This is underlined by the Catholic Bishops of the United States regarding the tensions and concerns at the international level raised by the nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran which foresees the construction of power plants using such energy. A program that the Iranian Government states is for civil and not military use.

The Bishops have asked that the international community spare no effort in dialogue in order to promote the commitment for peace and the nonproliferation of nuclear arms. This wish was expressed in a letter signed on 2 March by the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Richard Edmund Pates of Des Moines, addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Profound concerns” emerge in the letter for the difficult situation that characterizes various Islamic countries.

“There has been an alarming escalation in rhetoric and tensions” the letter reads. “The United States and the European Union have legitimately applied additional economic sanctions against Iran.... Recent news accounts speculating on the possible use of force against Iran, including an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, are especially troubling”.

In this context the bishops, recalling that “the use of force must always be a last resort”, have turned to the American authorities asking them to favour stability. “Based on the Church’s teaching on war and peace” writes Bishop Pates, “the Bishops’ Conference urges the u.s. Government to continue to explore all available options to resolve the conflict with Iran through diplomatic rather than military means”. At the same time the Bishops points out that the current situation makes the goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons even more urgent. For the episcopate, the possible possession of nuclear weapons “would further destabilize that volatile region and undermine nonproliferation efforts”. In this regard the letter underlines the statement by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who affirmed that the Islamic Republic of Iran “considers possession of nuclear weapons a sin”, but the letter also states that the Islamic nation should back up the supreme leader’s “words with actions” and the Islamic nation “should concretely demonstrate” its willingness to cooperate with the international community.

The letter therefore notes that the situation is an example of the threat posed by the risks of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. “The specific situation of Iran”, it explains, “should be viewed within the wider search for a just and peaceful world built on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. A morally responsible nonproliferation strategy must be tied to a clear strategy for reducing and ultimately ending the reliance on nuclear weapons”. In conclusion the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the Bishops' Conference urges the United States Government to “seek to resolve concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in ways that reduce the threat of nuclear non-proliferation while maintaining stability in the Middle East”.

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