Iran Nuclear NewsIran standing firm in nuclear dispute

Iran standing firm in nuclear dispute

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AP: Iran accused the United States and other world powers of being the true nuclear threats Tuesday at a meeting hamstrung by Tehran’s opposition to language calling for full compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Associated Press

By GEORGE JAHN

Associated Press Writer

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Iran accused the United States and other world powers of being the true nuclear threats Tuesday at a meeting hamstrung by Tehran’s opposition to language calling for full compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Amid closed-door talks aimed at ending the impasse, France criticized Iran for defying a U.N. Security Council demand to freeze uranium enrichment, a potential pathway to nuclear arms, and urged Iran to “comply with its international obligations.”

The conference, which began Monday and lasts two weeks, is intended to help prepare for a full review of the treaty in 2010.

Iran opposed wording in the meeting’s agenda that mentions the “need for full compliance with the treaty.” The agenda must be adopted by consensus before delegates can move on to more substantive issues.

If Iran digs in its heels, it could force the meeting to adjourn to a later date. Alternatively, delegates could take up agenda items not contested by Tehran, giving time for a compromise.

Tehran remained unbowed.

“We cannot go along with this kind of agenda,” Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, the chief Iranian delegate, told The Associated Press, complaining the agenda text “highlights a particular position” over other issues crucial to strengthening the treaty.

Iran was dispatching a senior official from Tehran to argue its position Wednesday, diplomats at the meeting told the Associated Press.

A senior diplomat from a nonaligned nation, which usually supports Iran in showdowns over its nuclear program, said Tuesday that even nonaligned countries were puzzled by Iran’s move. Another diplomat said Cuba, Egypt and South Africa – all traditional Iranian allies – were urging Tehran to modify its stance.

Several diplomats expressed surprise at Iran’s position, noting Tehran has always maintained its nuclear activities – including a program to enrich uranium that has led to U.N. sanctions – are in compliance with the treaty.

But another diplomat familiar with the issue said Iran was worried about being bullied and considered the text “an additional provocation.” He said Iran’s assertiveness also could reflect its belief that it was seeing signs of compromise from the West on its refusal to freeze enrichment totally.

All the diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

In comments to the meeting, Soltanieh took aim at the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states, describing “their thousands of nuclear weapons … and their possible use as the most serious threat to the very existence of humankind.”

The United States seeks “to rationalize the development and stockpiling of a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons and their use in conventional conflicts,” he asserted.

Again rejecting a U.N. Security Council demand that Tehran halt uranium enrichment program, Soltanieh said Iran “will not stand still in the face of intimidation and threats, and will never give up its inalienable rights.”

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty calls on nations to pledge not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by five nuclear powers – the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China – to move toward nuclear disarmament. India and Pakistan, known nuclear weapons states, remain outside the treaty, as does Israel, which is considered to have such arms but has not acknowledged it.

Both Iran and North Korea have tested the 37-year-old treaty’s effectiveness. North Korea pulled out in 2003 and went on to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran argues it has a right to pursue uranium enrichment under the treaty.

Chief French delegate Jean-Francois Dobelle, in a statement to the meeting, urged Iran “to comply with its international obligations,” adding that any revision of the treaty “should deal with and respond to the challenge raised by the continuation of the Iranian nuclear program.”

Alluding to Iran – which the West accuses of hiding behind the nonproliferation treaty to develop a weapons program – Dobelle said: “It is not acceptable for a small number of states … to breach their obligations, while at the same time claiming the benefit of their rights.”

Officials from some 130 of the treaty’s 189 signatory countries are attending the conference, excluding North Korea.

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