With tensions high over whether Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, Iran on Tuesday repeated that it is open to talks on its nuclear program, and it accused the West of a double standard on the nuclear issue.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi stressed the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program as he addressed the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
He called for nuclear disarmament worldwide - saying the gravest threat to sustainable security is the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of a few countries.
Western countries and Israel fear that Iran, despite its denials, is trying to join that group of nuclear-armed nations.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has "major differences" and "major concerns" with Iran over its nuclear program and possible weapons development.
U.N. inspectors said their latest visit to Tehran, aimed at gaining greater access to key nuclear sites and scientists, ended in failure.
On Tuesday, Salehi told the U.N. conference that Iran will continue to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. He said other countries have two choices on how to deal with this program.
“One way is engagement, cooperation and interaction, and the other is confrontation and conflict. The Islamic Republic of Iran, confident of the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, has always insisted on the first alternative," said Salehi. "When it comes to our relevant rights and obligations, our consistent position is that Iran does not seek confrontation, nor does it want anything beyond its inalienable legitimate rights.”
Salehi said the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed, upholds the right of member states to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
He criticized the sanctions placed on Iran by nations that fear Iran's nuclear intentions are not peaceful.
“Monopolizing selfishly the scientific knowledge and the technology of peaceful nuclear energy and depriving others from it through various means including atrocious assassination of scientists is an illusion, which will certainly not lead to the preservation of their perceived supremacy,” said Salehi.
Salehi was referring to the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist last month. Iran blames the killing on Israel.
The Iranian foreign minister accused the West of double standards and discrimination in supporting Israel, which has not joined the NPT and is widely believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, although it has never confirmed having a nuclear arsenal.
The U.S. ambassador to the disarmament conference, Laura Kennedy, cast doubt on Iran’s nuclear program. She said the Iranian minister’s stated commitment to nuclear disarmament stands in stark contrast to Iran’s failure to comply with its international obligations.
She said Iran has just expanded its ability to enrich uranium and noted Tehran continues to deny U.N. inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities.