Ahmadinejad Defies Nuclear Powers at UN Nuclear Conference

New York, May 4 (DPA) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set a defiant tone for his government's participation in the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty Monday, accusing the US and its allies of monopolizing nuclear issues.

Ahmadinejad was addressing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference at the UN General Assembly in New York, and stole the spotlight as the only head of state attending the opening of the month-long meeting.

Speaking against countries that accuse Tehran of scheming to produce nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad said, "The first atomic weapons were produced and used by the US."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the month-long UN review conference by challenging Iran to provide proof that its advanced nuclear programmes are for peaceful purposes.

"I encourage the president of Iran to engage constructively," Ban said. "Let us be clear: the onus is on Iran to clarify the doubts and concerns about its programmes."

"I encourage Iran to accept the nuclear fuel supply proposal put forward by the agency," he said. "This would be an important confidence-building measure."

Ahmadinejad said Ban's request on nuclear fuel was not necessary because Tehran has already accepted the deal and the "ball is on the court of those who would provide the fuel".

He strongly defended his government's quest for nuclear energy for civilian uses. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN and most Western governments said they were not convinced of Iran's ultimate intention.

The White House said Ahmadinejad's remarks failed to address concerns his country has not met its obligations under the treaty.

"Those that are involved in the NPT conference and are living up to their obligations would have wanted to hear the Iranians discuss wanting to live up to their obligations," spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

IAEA director general Yukiya Amano, who also addressed the conference, said Tehran has so far failed to clarify that its nuclear activities were solely for peaceful purposes.

UN and disarmament officials fear that the 2010 review could fail if the dispute over Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programmes were not contained. The dispute over Iran's nuclear issues jeopardized the outcome at the last review conference in 2005.

"Nuclear energy is among the cleanest and cheapest sources of energy," Ahmadinejad said.

He said it would cost $500 million a year in oil at current market prices to maintain a 1,000-megawatt power plant compared to $60 million for a nuclear power plant generating the same capacity in nuclear energy.

"One of the gravest injustices committed by the nuclear weapon states is equating nuclear arms with nuclear energy," he said. "As a matter of fact, they want to monopolize both the nuclear weapons and the peaceful nuclear energy, and by doing so to impose their will on the international community. The aforementioned issues are all against the spirit of the NPT and in flagrant violation of its provisions."

Ahmadinejad said the US was the first country to use an atomic weapon, against Japan in 1945, and he accused the US of "continuing to threaten use of nuclear weapons against other countries, including Iran". He accused the US of stockpiling half of the estimated 23,000 warheads in existence in the world.

Ban pleaded for decisive action to move forward the UN agenda of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as he opened the conference.

"The world's people look to you for action," Ban told the UN General Assembly packed with government envoys. He said eliminating nuclear weapons is a possibility, but the UN agenda has been "asleep for too long".

Ban proposed a five-point plan to make the NPT conference a success, including a demand for the world's nuclear powers - the US, Russia, China, France and China - to unequivocably undertake to eliminate their arsenals of nuclear warheads.

There are an estimated 23,000 warheads in the arsenals of those five countries and other countries with nuclear capability.


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