Reuters: Iran, rebuffing critics at a meeting on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, accused the West on Tuesday of misrepresenting Tehran’s activities as a quest for bombs while flouting NPT vows to cut atomic arsenals. By Mark Heinrich
VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran, rebuffing critics at a meeting on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, accused the West on Tuesday of misrepresenting Tehran’s activities as a quest for bombs while flouting NPT vows to cut atomic arsenals.
Tehran says its bid to enrich uranium is for electricity only but has been hit with U.N. sanctions for refusing to suspend the program. The dispute threatens to torpedo the Vienna gathering aimed at finding ways to shore up the NPT.
The NPT binds members without nuclear bombs not to acquire them, guarantees the right of all members to nuclear energy for peaceful ends, and commits the original five nuclear powers from the post World War Two era to phase out their arsenals.
Security analysts say the 37-year-old NPT must be overhauled to cope with states trying to master nuclear arms capability under the guise of civilian atomic energy programs.
The United States and close allies suspect Iran of doing just that and say Tehran’s activity, together with North Korea’s test nuclear explosion after dropping out of the NPT, threaten to unravel the treaty.
In a maneuver on Monday that could abort the Vienna meeting, Iran blocked consensus on an agenda it feared would single it out as the prime peril to the NPT. On Tuesday Iran lashed out bitterly at what it called illegal pressure on it.
“Penalizing an NPT party on political grounds shall have grave consequences,” Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh said in a strident address.
He did not spell out consequences. But some hard-line Iranian officials have said Iran could reconsider its NPT membership.
“Iran stresses that there is no capacity at any level — research and development, pilot or industrial — for the production of nuclear material useable for nuclear weapons.”
BIG POWERS FAIL TO DISARM, IRAN SAYS
He also said nuclear weapons powers had shirked commitments to disarm and share atomic know-how for economic development.
“It is unacceptable that some countries tend to limit access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusive club of technologically advanced states under the pretext of non-proliferation,” said Soltanieh.
He added: “Iran is a responsible state but will not stand still in the face of intimidation and threats and will never give up its inalienable rights for peaceful use of nuclear energy as stipulated in Article 4 of the NPT.”
Western powers say they do not deny Iran’s right to civilian atomic energy, but that it must freeze enrichment to enable negotiations because it has flouted NPT obligations by hiding nuclear research in the past and impeding U.N. inquiries now.
The two-week NPT “Preparatory Committee” meeting comprises many of the 189 member states and is aimed at drafting goals for the next full review of the treaty in 2010.
The Japanese chairman of the meeting said earlier he was determined to persuade Iran to lift objections threatening to block substantive debate on ideas to reinforce the NPT.
A diplomat from the Non-Aligned Movement of developing countries, to which Iran belongs, said many were not happy with Iran’s challenge since it could impede debate on two NAM priorities for the NPT — swifter disarmament by nuclear weapons powers and a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East.
But an Iranian diplomat said Tehran would stand its ground.
If Iran does so, the Vienna meeting could be adjourned to another date or discussions could proceed on non-contested issues to buy time for compromise with Iran. But Western diplomats said the second option would gut the session.