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Nuclear conference in Iran faults Israel

TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian-hosted international disarmament conference concluded Sunday with a demand that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to assure a nuclear weapons-free Middle East.

The two-day conference followed closely behind a 47-nation nuclear security conference hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington last week, which excluded Iran and nuclear-armed North Korea. Washington and its allies suspect Iran's nuclear program is geared toward producing weapons, which Tehran denies.

As the conference was ending Sunday, Iran staged an annual military parade, where it displayed missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The forum, which Iran said was attended by representatives of 60 countries, gave Tehran a platform for challenging Washington's assertion that it wants to see a world without nuclear weapons and for defending its own nuclear program. It criticized what it called a double standard by nuclear powers that urge disarmament while ignoring the nuclear arsenal Israel is believed to possess.

A nuclear weapons-free Middle East requires "the Zionist regime to join the NPT," said the concluding statement of the conference, read by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Israel, which does not confirm or deny possessing nuclear arms, has declined to sign the NPT, which would require it to open up its nuclear facilities to international inspectors.

The statement also took issue with perceived threats by the United States and Israel to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

"The conference expressed its concerns about the continued existence of weapons of mass destruction — nuclear arms in particular — as well as their application or threat to apply them," the statement said.

Tehran was angered by Obama's announcement this month of a new U.S. nuclear policy in which he pledged America would not use atomic weapons against nations that do not have them. Iran and North Korea were pointedly excluded, and Iranian leaders took that as an implicit threat.

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In other news

• Defense Secretary Robert Gates is disputing the characterization of a memo he wrote in January suggesting the United States needed to advance a long-term plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear program. Gates said Sunday that allies and foes should have no doubt the nation is prepared to act "across a broad range of contingencies" in support of its interests. He said the memo identified steps to be taken in defense planning after Washington decided to increase pressure against Iran's nuclear ambitions. The New York Times reported the memo prompted a scramble to come up with new options, including military ones. But Gates said he was just laying out an orderly and decision-making process.

• The pro-reform Iranian newspaper Sharq said filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad was convicted on charges of spreading propaganda against the clerical establishment and insulting the country's leaders. Nourizad was arrested in November after writing a protest letter to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urging him to apologize to the nation for the bloody crackdown on the opposition movement after the disputed June presidential elections.

Nuclear conference in Iran faults Israel 04/18/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 18, 2010 10:20pm]
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