- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

TOKYO (AP) — Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator called for a global nuclear weapons ban on Monday but insisted all nations — including his own — have a right to develop nuclear energy.

Visiting Tokyo to meet with senior Japanese officials, Saeed Jalili insisted that his country’s nuclear program is for civilian purposes, although the U.S. and other nations fear its goal is to produce weapons.

“The crime that was committed in Hiroshima must never be repeated,” Jalili told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, referring to the United States’ dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II. “A global determination must be made to disarm all nations with these weapons.”

President Barack Obama’s administration has given a rough deadline of year-end for Iran to respond to an offer of engagement and show that it would allay world concerns about its nuclear program.

The U.S. and its allies are pressing Tehran to accept a U.N.-brokered plan under which Iran would ship the majority of its low-enriched uranium out of the country. That would temporarily leave Iran without enough uranium stockpiles to enrich further to produce a nuclear weapon.

Under the plan, the low-enriched uranium would be converted into fuel rods that would be returned to Iran for use in a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes. Fuel rods cannot be further enriched into weapons-grade material.

Iran has balked at the plan, and Jalili dodged questions Monday about Tehran’s response to it, talking instead about Iran’s own request to buy nuclear fuel from abroad.

The deal was seen by the U.S. and its negotiating partners as a step toward building confidence in Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is designed only for civilian pursuits — medical purposes and to generate electricity.

“The Tehran reactor is for pharmaceutical use, for humanitarian use,” Jalili said. “Using nuclear energy is the right of every nation.”

But the Obama administration has also stepped up the momentum toward sanctions after the revelation in September that Iran was secretly building a second uranium-enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom.

Earlier in the day Jalili met with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, who voiced strong concern over Iran’s nuclear program, according to a Foreign Ministry official who declined to be named.

Jalili, who plans to visit Hiroshima this week, made a thinly veiled jab at Obama by criticizing his decision to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

“While giving the slogan of ‘change,’ these people are adopting the same approach of power and militarism,” he said.

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