Iran, Arabs criticise delay of Middle East nuclear talks

VIENNA Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:21pm IST

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby speaks during a Security Council meeting to discuss Peace and Security in the Middle East during the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby speaks during a Security Council meeting to discuss Peace and Security in the Middle East during the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Files

Related Topics

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers ride their camels as they rehearse for the "Beating the Retreat" ceremony in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

"Beating The Retreat" Rehearsals

Rehearsals are on for "Beating the Retreat" ceremony which symbolises retreat after a day on the battlefield, and marks the official end of the Republic Day celebrations.  Slideshow 

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran and Arab nations on Monday criticised a decision to put off talks on banning atomic bombs in the Middle East, with Tehran blaming the United States for a "serious setback" to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The United States said on Friday that the mid-December conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction would not occur and did not make clear when, or whether, it would take place. The United States, Britain and Russia are co-sponsors of the meeting.

The postponement "will have a negative impact on regional security and the international system to prevent nuclear proliferation as a whole," Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said in a statement.

Iran, which is accused by the West of developing a nuclear weapons capability, said this month it would participate in the talks that had been due to take place in Helsinki, Finland.

Asked about the U.S. announcement, Iranian nuclear envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told state broadcaster Press TV from Vienna:

"It is a serious setback to the NPT and this is a clear sign that the U.S. is not committed to the obligation of a world free of nuclear weapons."

Elaraby said all regional states except Israel - widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal - had voiced willingness to attend the conference.

He called for urgent meeting of senior Arab officials this week to consider the developments.

Even if the talks eventually occur, Western diplomats and experts expect little progress any time soon due to the deep-rooted animosities in the region, notably the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israeli concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.

Washington feared the conference could be used as a forum to criticise i ts ally Israel, a concern only likely to have increased after eight days of Israeli-Palestinian fighting that ended with a ceasefire last week.

SECURITY

Israel, which says say Tehran is the Middle East's main proliferation threat, had not said whether it would attend.

Iran and Arab states often say Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal poses a threat to Middle East peace and security.

The plan for a meeting to lay the groundwork for the possible creation of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction was agreed at a 2010 conference of 189 parties to the 1970 NPT, a treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear arms in the world.

Israel, which neither confirms nor denies having nuclear arms, is not a signatory.

U.S. and Israeli officials have said a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East could not be a reality until there was broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran curbed its nuclear programme, which Tehran says is for peaceful energy and research purposes.

Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the U.N. nuclear agency, said: "The U.S. has taken hostage this Helsinki conference for the sake of Israel ... they want to support the Israelis' nuclear weapon capability."

Russia and Britain signalled in separate statements at the weekend their hope for a delay to be as short as possible and that the talks could be held next year instead.

The U.S. State Department said it would keep working to try to bring about a meeting, adding such a gathering must take into account the security of all the states in the region and operate on the basis of consensus.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Editing by Alison Williams)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Reuters Showcase

The Apple logo is pictured inside the newly opened Omotesando Apple store at a shopping district in Tokyo June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

Record Earnings

Apple iPhone sales trample expectations as profit sets global record  Full Article 

'Umrika' At Sundance

'Umrika' At Sundance

From Oscars to Sundance, Sharma and Revolori discuss India's 'Umrika'  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Keys overcomes injury, Venus to make Melbourne semis  Full Article | Related Story 

Japan Hostages

Japan Hostages

Japan's Abe: new video of Islamic State captive Goto "despicable".  Full Article 

Tripoli Attack

Tripoli Attack

Frenchman, American among those killed in Tripoli hotel attack - Libyan official.  Full Article 

India’s Male Tenor

India’s Male Tenor

India’s lone male tenor wants to ‘Indianise’ opera  Full Article 

U.S. Blizzard

U.S. Blizzard

Blizzard hits Boston and New England, spares New York despite forecasts.  Full Article 

Spying Row

Spying Row

Spying program leaked by Snowden is tied to campaign in many countries.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage