UNITED NATIONS, (Reuters) – A top Iranian diplomat accused the United States and other nuclear powers on Thursday of creating a “deadlock” that could wreck hopes for a deal on a plan to strengthen the global anti-nuclear arms treaty.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna, was speaking on the next-to-last day of a month-long conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, where delegates from its 189 signatories are struggling to agree on a plan to shore up the landmark arms control pact. He added that Iran, which has virtual veto power because NPT meetings make decisions by consensus, was prepared to stand alone and block agreement on a final declaration if Tehran was not satisfied with the language in it. “We will not compromise on principles,” he said.
Failure to agree on a final declaration at the NPT review conference, which ends on Friday, would repeat what happened at the last NPT review in 2005.
That one failed due to Egypt’s frustration at the lack of a deal to pressure Israel over its atomic program and developing nations’ anger at the U.S. repudiation of disarmament pledges.
Soltanieh said the five powers allowed to keep nuclear arms under the NPT — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — had rejected key demands of Iran and the other 115 non-aligned developing nations about the final declaration. He said those demands were for a precise deadline for nuclear powers to disarm, a call for negotiations on a “nuclear weapons convention” banning the use of atomic arms, and a pledge from the nuclear powers not to use atomic bombs on states without them, known as a “negative security assurance.” He added that most NPT members also want “the prompt accession of Israel to the NPT and putting (Israeli) nuclear activities and facilities under IAEA safeguards.” This, he said, was the main obstacle preventing the creation of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East, a key Arab demand at the NPT review conference.
Israel belongs to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), though like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan it never signed the NPT and is not at the conference. It is assumed to have atomic weapons but neither confirms nor denies it.
“The nuclear weapon states, particularly the United States, have not cooperated to find a solution for these four main issues,” Soltanieh said, adding that the NPT talks had reached a “deadlock” and “impasse.”
If the nuclear powers refuse to compromise, “they should be blamed for consequences,” Soltanieh said.
The United States and the other permanent Security Council members are negotiating with Egypt to agree on language in the final declaration that would call for a conference in 2012 that all states in the region — including Israel and Iran — would attend to discuss creating a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.
Delegates said it was unclear whether they would reach an agreement over the next 24 hours to ensure that the NPT review conference does not end in failure as it did five years ago. “Negotiations are very tense,” Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told Reuters.
The draft final declaration does not name Iran for breaching the NPT, even though some Western powers that suspect it wants nuclear arms had pushed for it. Diplomats said Tehran threatened to block agreement on a declaration if named in it. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
The latest draft does not include a deadline for disarming but does call for further disarmament steps, urges countries to accept more rigorous IAEA inspections and calls on Israel Pakistan and India to join the NPT as non-weapon states.
While Iran escapes censure in the draft, it says North Korea’s nuclear program is a “threat to the peace and security of Northeast Asia.” North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.