Iran Seen Ready to Develop Nuclear Arms; Middle East, Korea Are Danger Zones

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Byline: John Zarocostas, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

GENEVA - Heightened global security concerns over the reputed pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran, the standoff between North Korea and the United States and the threat of nuclear terrorism dominated an international meeting here aimed at strengthening the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

On Thursday, President Bush voiced concern that "the Iranians may be developing a nuclear program."

Similarly, John S. Wolf, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, told the U.N.-sponsored NPT forum that Iran provides perhaps the most fundamental challenge ever faced by the 188-member NPT accord.

Under the NPT, which came into force in March 1970, signatory states renounce the option of ever acquiring such weapons and agree to an international safeguard regime.

In return, nuclear weapons powers have agreed to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

"Iran has been conducting an alarming clandestine program to acquire sensitive nuclear capabilities that we believe only make sense as part of a nuclear-weapons program," Mr. Wolf told the forum in Geneva. "Iran is going down the same path of denial and deception that handicapped international inspections in North Korea and Iraq."

But on Friday, Amir Zamninia, director-general for international political affairs in Iran's Foreign Ministry, told delegates that "Iran has renounced the nuclear option for many reasons." And, he added, "we consider the use of nuclear weapon to be inhuman, immoral, illegal."

"We do not have anything to hide," Mr. Zamninia said, and argued that the American charges regarding Iran illustrate a double standard on the nuclear issue.

"Compare the U.S. approach to Israel as a proven and established proliferator with its approach to Iran as a country that the U.S. suspects may have not fully complied with its NPT obligations," he said. …