Iran General NewsIran no-show in Bahrain

Iran no-show in Bahrain

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AP: Iran decided at the last moment Friday not to attend a regional Mideast security conference where Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to deliver the keynote address, organizers said. The Associated Press

By SEBASTIAN ABBOT

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Iran decided at the last moment Friday not to attend a regional Mideast security conference where Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to deliver the keynote address, organizers said.

The apparent snub comes amid ongoing hostility between the two powers despite recent U.S. claims that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had been scheduled to attend the conference, which opens Friday night, but the Iranians changed their mind and sent no one to the gathering in Bahrain’s capital.

The conference, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, welcomed delegates from Persian Gulf nations, the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain, Australia and other countries.

Organizers were informed early Friday that Mottaki “would not attend the Manama Dialogue and Iran would not send a delegation,” said Kay Floyd, the conference’s press officer.

There was no immediate report in Iran on the changed stance, but earlier Friday, Iranian state radio had said that an Iranian representative would attend the Manama meeting — an indication Tehran had likely made the decision at the last moment.

A diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Bahrain, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, confirmed Tehran would not be sending anyone to the event.

Gates is scheduled to address the conference Saturday in a speech titled, “The U.S. and the Regional Balance of Power.”

His speech comes as Washington pushes for a third round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran despite a recent U.S. intelligence report saying the country suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has shown no sign of resuming it.

The report was a dramatic turnaround from one issued in 2005 that concluded Iran had restarted its nuclear weapons program, but President Bush has continued to push for the sanctions, saying international pressure is key to keeping the program dormant.

The report also contained warnings about Iran’s continued nuclear activity and said the country could produce enough enriched uranium to have a nuclear bomb by 2010-2015.

Mottaki’s spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, has said the report proved Washington’s warnings over the danger of the Iranian nuclear program “are baseless and unreliable.”

The U.S. and many of its allies accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as cover for weapons development, a claim Tehran denies.

Washington has pushed through two rounds of U.N. sanctions against Iran and demands that Tehran suspend its uranium enrichment program, which can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb. Iran has continually refused, saying it has a right to pursue enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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