A Matter of “Extreme Urgency”

Britain Requests UNSC Hear Iran Oil Dispute

The Mossadegh Project | June 15, 2023                   

Britain’s appeal for a hearing on the Anglo-Iranian oil conflict, addressed to UN President Aleš Bebler of Yugoslavia and UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie of Norway. The Security Council met to address the complaint, as requested, on October 1, 1951.

United Nations Security Council | Iran Archive (coming soon)
Anglo-Iranian Oil Company | Iran Archive
International Court of Justice | Iran Archive
British Foreign Office | Iran Archive


28 September 1951


In accordance with instructions received from His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom I have the honour to request that the following item be placed on the provisional agenda of the Security Council: “Complaint of failure by the Iranian Government to comply with provisional measures indicated by the International Court of Justice in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company case.”

2. It will be recalled that the International Court of Justice, acting under Article 41 paragraph 2 of its Statute, notified the Security Council of the provisional measures indicated by the Court on July 5th 1951 at the request of the Government of the United Kingdom in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company case. The United Kingdom’s request to the Court for the indication of provisional measures was based on the contention that the actions of the Iranian authorities threatened to bring the whole process of oil production and refining to a standstill in circumstances calculated to cause irreparable damage to the oil producing and refinery installations and seriously to endanger life and property and cause distress to the areas concerned. The findings of the Court constituted an implicit recognition of the accuracy of this contention. The United Kingdom Government at once publicly proclaimed their full acceptance of the Court’s findings and so informed the Government of Iran, but the Government of Iran rejected these findings and have persisted in the course of action, including interference in the Company’s operations, which led the United Kingdom Government to apply to the Court for interim measures. Moreover the Government of Iran have now ordered the expulsion of all the remaining staff of the Company in Iran and this action is clearly contrary to the provisional measures indicated by the Court.

3. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom are gravely concerned at the dangers inherent in this situation and at the threat to peace and security that may thereby be involved. In view of the fact that the expulsion order issued by the Government of Iran is scheduled to take effect by Thursday October 4th, I have the honour to request that the Council should consider this matter as one of extreme urgency and I would ask that a meeting of the Council be called for the morning of October 1.

4. In order to facilitate speedy discussion of this question, I have the honour to enclose a draft resolution which Your Excellency will no doubt be good enough to have circulated at once.

I have the honour to be,


Your Excellency’s obedient Servant,

/s/     J. E. Coulson
[Sir John Eltringham Coulson]

Deputy Permanent Representative of the
United Kingdom to the United Nations

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

• Also published in the State Department’s Bulletin, October 13, 1951, pg. 584 — “U.K. Requests U.N. Action in Iranian Controversy” (U.N. doc. S/2357, Sept. 29, 1951).

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Related links:

UK v. Iran Judgment: ICJ Lacks Jurisdiction on AIOC Case | July 22, 1952

Last Call for Britain? | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 13, 1951

Iran and the World Court | The Shreveport Times, June 26, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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