United Nations
United Nations Israel news photo: UN.org

Iran's looming status as head of a UN disarmament body sparked outrage Monday from campaigners who said its nuclear program and arming of Syria and Islamist militias disqualified it from a place at the table. “This is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of a women's shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, head of Geneva-based UN Watch, announcing that the organization would organize protest events involving Iranian dissidents.

The leadership of the UN Conference on Disarmament rotates automatically in alphabetical order among its 65 member nations, and Iran is scheduled to take the helm on May 27 for a session running until June 23.

"Iran is an international outlaw state that illegally supplies rockets to Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, aiding and abetting mass murder and terrorism. To make this rogue regime head of world arms control is simply an outrage. Abusers of international norms should not be the public face of the UN," Neuer said.

The organization urged the United States, European Union and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to speak out, despite the fact that diplomatic protocol dictates who will preside over conference sessions. “When the United Nations imposes four rounds of sanctions on Iran for illicit nuclear activities, condemns it for illegally arming the murderous Syrian regime, and denounces Tehran's massive abuse of human rights, this kind of appointment just defies common sense and harms the UN's credibility," said Neuer.

Iran takes over the conference presidency from Indonesia, and at the end of June hands over to Iraq, which in turn makes way for Ireland later in the year.

The conference was launched in 1979 to try to stem the Cold War arms race. Its 2013 agenda includes striving to craft a deal on nuclear disarmament, preventing arms from spreading to outer space and halting the development of other weapons of mass destruction. In the past, its debates have paved the way for treaties on non-proliferation of nuclear arms, and biological and chemical weapons. (AFP)