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. Iran fights discussion of nuclear compliance at UN conference
VIENNA, May 1 (AFP) May 01, 2007
Iran on Tuesday blasted nuclear weapons powers for failing to honor promises to disarm and insisted that a conference here on non-proliferation drop a call for compliance that could target Tehran.

Diplomats were trying to rescue the two-week, 189-nation Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference that opened Monday, following Iranian objections to an agenda item "reaffirming the need for full compliance with the treaty."

Failure to overcome the procedural hitch could cut short the meeting in Vienna which is the first of a series of preparatory conferences ahead of a general review of the NPT in 2010.

Diplomats said they feared the Vienna meeting, which comes at a time of nuclear crises in both Iran and North Korea, could descend into procedural wrangling as happened at the last review conference in New York in May 2005.

Iran is under UN sanctions due to nuclear activities which had fuelled fears that it seeks atomic weapons.

Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh did not refer to the dispute in a speech to the conference but outlined Iran's contention that it is not being treated fairly for what it says is a peaceful nuclear power effort that is in line with the NPT.

"It is unacceptable that some countries tend to limit the access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusive club of technologically advanced states under the pretext of non-proliferation," Soltanieh said.

"This attitude is in clear violation of the letter and spirit of the treaty," he said, adding that the UN Security Council should not get involved with sanctions since verifying the NPT was the job of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Nuclear weapons states have not fulfilled their obligations . . . for the elimination of nuclear weapons," Soltanieh said.

He told reporters that the Iranian stand against the agenda item was "a matter of principle."

He said the item should be revised to call for compliance with "all provisions" of the treaty and that this would confirm cracking down on disarmament as well as compliance.

On Monday, Soltanieh surprised the opening session when he insisted that the agenda item could "create disputes by creating too much focus on one country. We don't want a direction given."

Chinese delegate Zhang Yan, a foreign ministry disarmament official, gave Iran some backing by saying that "exerting pressure, imposing sanctions or resorting to force are not effective ways to resolve problems."

But Iran had little support in its effort to modify the agenda here.

The NPT, which went into effect at the height of the Cold War in 1970 to control the spread of nuclear weapons and was extended indefinitely in 1995, is reviewed every five years.

The last such meeting in 2005 failed to resolve any key questions, with non-aligned countries and nuclear powers bickering over the agenda.

A diplomat said it was "revelatory" that Iran wanted to block a full debate on compliance, as that it was what they are failing to do.

Another diplomat said Arab nations, which normally back Iran at NPT discussions, were "not happy because there is a reference to resolutions on the Middle East (a call for a nuclear-free-zone there) in the agenda" that they had fought to have included, and so wanted the agenda to be adopted as is.

Non-aligned nations were also not backing Iran, urging it to put off this fight until an IAEA board meeting in June.

"But Iran says they must stand on principle now, to avoid precedents," a non-aligned diplomat told AFP.

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