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Nobel winner warns on Iran attack


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(CNN) -- Human rights would be "among the first casualties" if Iran were attacked or invaded, a Nobel laureate and Iranian human rights activist has said in an opinion article.

"For the human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause," says the op-ed piece written by Shirin Ebadi and Hadi Ghaemi in The New York Times on Tuesday.

Ebadi, who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, is the founder of the Center for Defense of Human Rights in Tehran. She is the first Iranian woman to win the coveted award.

Ghaemi is a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

A foreign attack or invasion would cause Iranian authorities to root out and disband the country's independent human rights organizations, they say.

While admitting the country's human rights situation is "less than ideal," the two say "the human rights discourse is alive and well at the grassroots level; civil society activists consider it to be the most potent framework for achieving sustainable democratic reforms and political pluralism."

Last fall, when Iranian authorities detained more than 20 young journalists and bloggers because of what they had written, independent organizations campaigned for their release, and the outcry, along with support from the international community ultimately led to that release, they say.

During her tour of Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States has no plans to attack Iran, but criticized the country's human rights behavior.

Meanwhile on Tuesday British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed the words of U.S. President George W. Bush who last week accused Iran of being "the world's primary state sponsor of terror."

Blair urged the Islamic republic to bow to EU demands to renounce its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons. (Full story)

'Long-term threat'

In Tuesday's opinion piece, Ebadi and Ghaemi said Rice's comments and other statements by the Bush administration call to mind statements leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"Given the long-standing willingness of the American government to overlook abuses of human rights, particularly women's rights, by close allies in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, it is hard not to see the Bush administration's focus on human rights violations in Iran as a cloak for its larger strategic interests," the two say.

The U.S. almost certainly has some plan to attack Iran, although it may be a last resort, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, a CNN analyst, told CNN's American Morning on Tuesday.

"There's always plans being produced on any type of threat that we perceive this nation to have," Grange said. "You can assume there's plans to attack Iran at different levels of intensity," such as airstrikes or missile attacks.

However, even if Iran's nuclear program is disabled, the country's knowledge and capability is ultimately the long-term threat, he said.

Iran has said it will retaliate if attacked. That retaliation could take the form of ballistic missile attacks on U.S. allies such as Israel or terrorist activities, Grange said.

The Tuesday opinion piece says "the most effective way to promote human rights in Iran is to provide moral support and international recognition to independent human rights defenders, and to insist that Iran adhere to the international human rights laws and conventions that it has signed ... foreign military intervention in Iran is the surest way to harm us and keep that goal out of reach."

Meanwhile, Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that Tehran wanted to resolve decades of differences with the United States and warned that a U.S. military strike would not destroy all of Iran's nuclear facilities. (Full story)

Iran's top leaders have tried in recent days to ease increasing tensions with Washington amid a war of words.

"We are not seeking tension with the United States," negotiator Hasan Rowhani told the state-run television. "We are seeking to resolve our problems with America but it's the Americans who don't want problems be resolved."


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