Iran’s top political and religious authority lashed out at the United States at a nuclear disarmament conference Saturday in Tehran meant to counter a nonproliferation summit in Washington earlier in the week.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described the United States as the world’s “only nuclear scofflaw.” He called Washington hypocritical for advocating arms control while retaining a huge nuclear weapons stockpile, and for accepting the atomic arsenal of Israel. Israel, which has never formally acknowledged itself to be a nuclear power but is widely held to be, is not a signatory to the international treaty requiring transparency for its nuclear program.
“The deceptive policy by the only nuclear scofflaw, which falsely claims to be advocating the nonproliferation of nuclear arms while doing nothing substantive for this cause, will never succeed,” Khamenei said in comments read by one of his closest advisors, former minister Ali Akbar Velayati.
Iran has faced international pressure over its nuclear technology and research program, which the West alleges is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran contends that it is meant only for civilian ends.
Iranians are incensed over the Obama administration’s recent rewriting of the U.S. policy on nuclear weapons, which ruled out using such arms against nonnuclear countries that comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory. The U.S. says the Islamic Republic has violated the treaty; Iran says it is in compliance.
“Threats to use weapons, especially nuclear weapons, are made by those who have no clear logic and human thinking,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech.
Tehran also condemned the recent nuclear nonproliferation conference in Washington, which was partly a precursor to seeking new sanctions against Iran within the U.N. Security Council.
Iran has striven hard to bolster its diplomatic position ahead of anticipated maneuvers at the Security Council and a conference next month in New York to reexamine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
State-controlled media said 24 nations sent ministers or deputy ministers to Iran’s first International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, which continues Sunday.
China and Russia, strategic allies that have appeared to back away from Tehran under Western pressure, sent deputy foreign ministers. Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Oman and Syria, Iran’s main strategic ally, sent foreign ministers, and Pakistan’s ambassador to Tehran attended.
There was no sign of any Western delegates.
Khamenei reiterated his long-standing position that the use of nuclear weapons was religiously forbidden, a violation of humanitarian law and a war crime. In an echo of the message made by President Obama at the Washington summit, he called for “sensible and practical ways and solutions to counter the threat of nuclear weapons.”
In the lounge outside the main hall where invitees delivered long speeches in favor of nuclear disarmament, pictures of victims of the 1945 U.S. nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were on display.
Mostaghim is a special correspondent.