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General: Iran should claim part of Antarctica.

A senior Iranian military officer has said the Islamic Republic should sail ships to the Antarctic and claim part of the continent as Iranian territory.

This would ignore the Antarctic Treaty that has internationalized the continent. But Iran has never signed that treaty so it would not be violating international law, merely flaunting yet another generally accepted international standard.

The idea of claiming land that one landed upon was the epitome of colonialism, which Iran says it condemns. The claiming practice went out of fashion in the 19th Century.

Major General Mohammad Bagheri, who is the intelligence and operations deputy to the chief of the joint staff, aired the proposal Monday, the Fars news agency reported.

The general encouraged Iran's Navy to launch a voyage to Antarctica, saying Iran can "gain sovereignty over a part of the South Pole in accordance with international law as the country is linked by international waters from Makran [on the Indian Ocean coast] to the South Pole without any piece of land being in its way."

In 1961, the Antarctic Treaty took effect. It was signed by the 12 countries that had earlier claimed parts of Antarctica. Fifty other countries joined in the treaty, saying they would not make any claims themselves. Iran has not joined the treaty and so can make a claim.

The treaty froze all existing claims and treats the continent as a whole, banning military activity. The purpose was to guarantee scientific access while keeping the continent out of the realm of international competition. A claim by Iran would upset that understanding.

The 12 countries that had significant interests in Antarctica at the time and that all signed the treaty were: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the US.

On Monday, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the Iranian Navy, was quoted as saying some Iranian warships are now sailing eastward and will for the first time in history pass through the Strait of Malacca, which separates Malaysia and Indonesia, before turning around and returning home.

Bagheri also said the US Navy is deeply fearful of Iran's reactions to its moves and extends humble apologies to the Iranian armed forces any time it makes a mistake in the Persian Gulf.

"Any time an incident takes place in the Persian Gulf, the US warships contact us immediately on radio channel 16 [the international channel for emergency communications] and present humble explanations and say that nothing special has happened and it has been a mistake, and announce that the action does not mean a threat."

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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Feb 22, 2013
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