Iran's Khamenei Calls for 'Nuclear Free Middle East'

Iran's motto is "Nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday. (Photo credit: AP)

Iran's Khamenei Calls for 'Nuclear Free Middle East'

Supreme leader of Iran says nuclear weapons are "great sin" as Israel's Netanyahu calls meeting of Non-Alligned Movement a "disgrace"

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday reiterated the country's position that it has no desire for nuclear weapons, calling atomic weapons a "great sin" and renewing the call for a nuclear-free Middle East.

Speaking to leaders at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, Khamenei said that Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), would continue to defend its right to develop a peaceful nuclear program.

"I stress that the Islamic Republic has never been after nuclear weapons and that it will never give up the right of its people to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," Khamenei said.

"Iran considers the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a great and unforgivable sin," he continued. "We proposed the idea of 'Middle East free of nuclear weapons' and we are committed to it."

Meanwhile, Israel Prime Minister Benjmain Netanyahu condemned the NAM conference, calling the meeting a "disgrace" and a "stain on humanity."

"Today, over 120 countries are in Tehran, saluting a regime that not only denies the Holocaust but pledges to annihilate the Jewish state, brutalizes its own people, colludes in the murder of thousands of innocent Syrians and leads millions in chanting 'Death to America, death to Israel'," Netanyahu said.

The Non-Aligned Movement is made up of 120 nations that seek not to be aligned with any major world power.

There's no love lost between the Israeli and Iranian leadership in the midst of continued speculation that Israel is planning a military assault on Iran's nuclear infrastructure and as US and Israeli-backed international economic sanctions take a toll on Iran's ability to trade and operate in the global market.

Khamenei slammed the sanctions and took aim at the UN Security Council for what Iran sees as undemocratic processes at the United Nations.

"Our view is that the control room of the world should not be managed by the dictatorial will of a few Western countries," Khamenei said according to an English translation on his official website. "This is what is needed by all the countries that have been directly or indirectly harmed as a result of the transgression of a few bullying and hegemonic countries."

And: "The U.N. Security Council has an illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic structure and mechanism. This is a flagrant form of dictatorship, which is antiquated and obsolete and whose expiry date has passed. It is through abusing this improper mechanism that America and its accomplices have managed to disguise their bullying as noble concepts and impose it on the world.

"They protect the interests of the West in the name of 'human rights.' They interfere militarily in other countries in the name of 'democracy,'" he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, who was in Tehran for the NAM summit, but did not attend Khamenei's speech, responded to the Ayatollah's most provocative comments against Israel with ire. As Agence France-Presse reports:

Ban "strongly objected" to the remarks in talks with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called Israel a "cancerous tumor," and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has doubted its right to exist, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters from Tehran.

Ban traveled to the summit despite US and Israeli criticism of his attendance, along with 36 heads of state or government who Iran says have confirmed they will take part.

The NAM summit began earlier this week and was opened with a call similar to Khamenei's for a nuclear free movement to take hold in the region.

"We believe that the timetable for ultimate removal of nuclear weapons by 2025, which was proposed by NAM, will only be realized if we follow it up decisively," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told delegates at the opening ceremony on Sunday.

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