Israel must declare nuclear bomb, says Rouhani
27 September, 2013
NEW YORK: Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani called on Thursday for Israel to put its suspected nuclear arms under international control ahead of a landmark meeting between foreign ministers from Iran and western nations.
Rouhani also said he believed a deal could be made on his country's nuclear drive within three to six months. The Iranian president spoke at a UN nuclear disarmament conference ahead of a meeting between Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Mohammad Zarif with US Secretary of State John Kerry and ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
The meeting was to discuss western accusations that Iran seeks a nuclear bomb capability. It will also be one of the highest-level Iran-US encounters since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
At the UN conference, Rouhani said Israel should join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to contain the spread of nuclear weapons. Israel has never declared a nuclear bomb but is widely suspected to have several.
Rouhani, speaking as current leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, highlighted the failure of attempts to organise a Middle East nuclear free zone.
"Israel, the only non-party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty in this region, should join thereto without any further delay," Rouhani told the meeting. He said that 'all nuclear activities in the region' would then be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
Iran is in conflict with the UN's atomic watchdog, which says it has still not given definitive proof that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
"No nation should possess nuclear weapons, since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons," Rouhani told an audience including UN leader Ban Ki moon. Rouhani told the Washington Post he wants a quick accord to end western accusations that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb. He said he has the full backing of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to broker a deal.
"The only way forward is for a timeline to be inserted into the negotiations that's short, and wrap it up," said Rouhani who is attending the UN General Assembly in New York. "That is a decision of my government, that short is necessary to settle the nuclear file," he said. "If it's three months, that would be Iran's choice, if it's six months, that's still good. It's a question of months not years."
Zarif will be the first Iranian minister to sit down with western counterparts to discuss Iran's nuclear programme.
And while US officials are saying that no bilateral talks are planned between Kerry and Zarif, there remains the chance for an encounter. "We're going to have a good meeting I'm sure," Kerry said early Thursday as he met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
The Iranian delegation, however, will only join part of the talks being hosted by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Western diplomats say the meeting will give them a new chance to take the measure of the new Iranian leadership, which took office in August. And they insist it will give the Iranians the opportunity to prove there is some substance behind Rouhani's claims that Iran is only seeking to pursue a peaceful civilian nuclear energy programme.