(CNSNews.com) – Bolstered by allies, Iran hosted its own nuclear conference at the weekend, with its leaders labeling the United States the world’s “nuclear criminal,” demanding action on Israel’s nuclear weapons and calling for a new international body to oversee global disarmament.
The meeting ended with a joint statement that covered Iran’s customary nuclear talking points – the right of all countries which have signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue nuclear programs for peaceful purposes; demands that nuclear-armed nations disarm and that world powers stop ignoring Israel’s nuclear arsenal; and a warning that any attack on “peaceful nuclear facilities” would violate international law and the U.N. Charter.
The two-day event in Tehran came at a time when the U.S. and European allies are focused on drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing more sanctions on Iran over nuclear activities which the West suspects are aimed at achieving an eventual weapons capability.
Two of the countries whose support will be needed for such a resolution, permanent Security Council members China and Russia, sent representatives to Iran’s “Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None” conference.
Iranian officials celebrated the presence of Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov and a low-level Chinese diplomat as well as representatives from three non-permanent Security Council members whose support it will be seeking – Lebanon, Turkey and Uganda.
(Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, praised Lebanon as a “representative of resistance” in the Security Council.)
Other attendees in Tehran included a handful of foreign ministers including those from Syria, Iraq and Indonesia, and lower-ranking officials from other developing countries. Cuba’s ambassador read out a message of support from Havana.
Alongside recurring complaints about Israel and about powerful countries trying to “monopolize” nuclear power, the toughest rhetoric came from the hosts.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set the tone by declaring that only one country had committed a “nuclear crime” – the United States in bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
“The one and only nuclear criminal in the world now falsely claims to be fighting against the spread of atomic weapons,” he told the gathering.
In his address, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded that U.S. membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, should be suspended because it has threatened to use nuclear weapons against other countries – a reference to recent statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others on keeping options open in dealing with Iran.
Ahmadinejad also complained that both the IAEA and Security Council were being used as tools by powerful countries and said it was undemocratic for a few nations to have veto power.
With veto-wielding Russia and China present, however, his criticism of the U.N. bodies was not included in the conference’s final document.
Deadline for disarmament eyed
Coming just days after President Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington, the Tehran meeting was an opportunity for developing nations to prepare for the forthcoming NPT Review Conference in New York.
There they are expected to call – as they have in past years – for faster action by nuclear-armed countries to disarm.
In Tehran on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki signaled plans to push in New York for the setting of a deadline for global nuclear disarmament, and Ahmadinejad called for the establishment of a new independent agency to oversee the disarming process.
The NPT permitted the U.S., China, Russia (then the Soviet Union), Britain and France – the only five nuclear-armed countries at the time it opened for signature in 1968 – to possess them, but also required them to pursue negotiations on effective measures leading to eventual disarmament. No deadline or time frame was set, and countries have long differed in their interpretations of the obligation.
Under the NPT the five recognized nuclear armed powers pledged not to transfer nuclear materials to other states, and other states promised not to pursue them. And the NPT allows signatories to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, under IAEA supervision.
Declared nuclear powers India and Pakistan have refused to sign the NPT, as has Israel, which is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons but has never confirmed this. North Korea in 2003 became the first and – so far – only country to withdraw from the treaty, and it has since declared itself to be nuclear weapons state.