Iran President Hasan Rouhani has called on Israel to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal and join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He also criticized the country for being the only Middle East state to not sign onto the pact.
"Almost four decades of international efforts to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East have regrettably failed," Rowhani told a United Nations nuclear disarmament conference being held on the sides of the General Assembly in New York Friday.
"Israel, the only non-party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in this region, should join thereto without any further delay," he said, adding that "all nuclear activities in the region" should be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and nuclear safeguards.
The meeting was called to discuss Western allegations that Iran's nuclear program is geared toward developing an atomic weapon. Tehran has says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and that it needs to enrich uranium in order to produce reactor fuel and for medical care. The IAEA says it still has not been given definitive proof that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.
Rouhani was speaking as the current head of the Non-Aligned Movement, which represents dozens of mostly developing nations.
"No nation should possess nuclear weapons, since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons," he said. "As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use, threat of use and proliferation persist. The only absolute guarantee is their total elimination."
Iran to meet with P5+1
Rouhani's comments came hours before Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Mohammed Zarif, was set to hold talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany - known as the P5+1. This should see Zarif meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in what would be one of the highest level Tehran-Washington encounters since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
The talks are aimed at laying the groundwork for the first substantive negotiations on Iran's nuclear program since April.
Kerry said earlier on Thursday he expected a "good meeting," but when asked Iranian leadership needed to do to show they're serious about negotiating, he replied: "I'll let you know after they've been serious."
dr/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa)