- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2010

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday rejected allegations his country is developing nuclear weapons, citing “not a single credible proof.”

In the first day of a monthlong conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Iranian leader dismissed allegations that his country’s uranium enrichment program is designed to produce a bomb, prompting the United States and other nations to call for sanctions.

Mr. Ahmadinejad also chided the United States for refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons. He invited President Obama to join a “humane movement” that would set a timetable for abolishing nuclear arms everywhere.

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“Regrettably, the government of the United States has not only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such weapons against other countries, including Iran,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said.

He referred to the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review’s provision retaining an option to use U.S. atomic arms against countries not in compliance with the nonproliferation pact, a charge Washington lays against Iran.

As the Iranian president spoke, the U.S. delegation of working-level staff walked out of the General Assembly hall. Mr. Ahmadinejad is the only head of state participating in the conference.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, scheduled to follow Mr. Ahmadinejad to the U.N. stage later Monday, suggested over the weekend he was coming to New York “to divert attention and confuse the issue.”

“We’re not going to permit Iran to try to change the story from their failure to comply” with the NPT, she said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC.

Opening the conference, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon directly challenged Tehran.

“The onus is on Iran to clarify the doubts and concerns about its program,” the U.N. chief told the delegates from 189 nations.

He called on the Tehran government “to fully comply with Security Council resolutions” demanding that it halt enrichment, which Washington and others contend is meant to produce the nuclear fuel for bombs in violation of Iran’s NPT obligations.

While delegates assess the state of the NPT in U.N. conference halls, American and European diplomats will be working elsewhere to reach agreement with the sometimes reluctant China and Russia on a fourth round of U.N. Security Council economic penalties to impose on Iran.

Although Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presence meant the first-day agenda was dominated by the Iran issue, it was only the beginning of a four-week diplomatic marathon meant to produce a consensus final document pointing toward ways to better achieve the NPT’s goals of checking the spread of nuclear weapons, while working toward reducing and eventually eliminating them.

The treaty is regarded as the world’s single most important pact on nuclear arms, credited with preventing their proliferation to dozens of nations since it entered into force in 1970. It was a grand global bargain: Nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them, those with them committed to move toward their elimination, and all endorsed everyone’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.

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