Vienna: Iran angrily stayed away on Monday from
UN atomic agency forum on creating a Middle East free of
nuclear weapons, amid growing tensions over Tehran`s suspected
efforts to develop the bomb.
Iran`s ambassador to the Vienna-based International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Tehran`s
decision was its "first reaction" to the body`s
"inappropriate" recent report on its nuclear programme.
That assessment saw the IAEA come the closest yet to
accusing Iran outright of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran, hit by four rounds of UN sanctions, says its activities
are exclusively for peaceful purposes.
On Friday, the IAEA`s board of governors passed a
resolution of "deep and increasing concern" submitted by the
five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany and
12 others in light of the report.
US news outlets have reported that Washington was set to
unveil new sanctions against Iran today targeting its
financial, oil and petrochemical sectors.
Soltanieh said another reason for not attending the
two-day forum, aimed at learning from the experiences of other
so-called nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ), was Israel`s
unofficial atomic arsenal.
"The Zionist regime (Israel)... is pursuing secret
nuclear activities which are worrying for the international
community," Soltanieh told Iranian television channel Al-Alam.
"As long as the Zionist regime does not belong to the NPT
(nuclear non-proliferation treaty) and does not cooperate with
international organisations... this kind of conference is
useless and cannot succeed."
Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons but
has never confirmed it. Unlike Iran it is not a signatory to
the NPT and therefore not subject to IAEA inspections.