Tehran: Stressing that Iran was not hankering after nuclear weapons, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday condemned the use of nuclear weapons as "unforgivable sin" and at the same time, vowed not to abandon Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
Amidst Western efforts to isolate Iran over its nuclear programme, the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement opened here today with Iran nuclear programme and Syrian crisis topping the agenda.
Speaking on the first day of the two-day summit of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement, Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran, added the country considers the use of nuclear weapons to be "a big and unforgiveable sin”.
"Nuclear arms have neither provided security nor boosted political power," Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on Iranian state TV.
"I declare that the Islamic Republic of Iran has never been after nuclear weapons and it will never abandon its right for peaceful use of nuclear energy," he added.
He further accused the US of "bullying" the world.
On the other hand, Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi chose the occasion of 16th NAM summit to slam the "oppressive" Syrian regime, triggering a walkout by the Syrian delegation on Thursday.
Hitting out at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Mursi said it was an "ethical duty" to support the Syrian people against the "oppressive regime" in Damascus.
"We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom."
The Syrian delegation at the Summit walked out during Mursi’s speech.
Mursi’s visit to Iran on Thursday is the first by an Egyptian leader to the Islamic Republic in three decades. It represents a major thaw in relations between the two countries since Mursi, an Islamist, became President in June in the aftermath of the country’s 2011 uprising.
Iran and Egypt, however, remain divided over Syria’s crisis. Shi’ite Iran backs the Damascus regime while there is widespread sympathy in Egypt for the rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad.
The two-day meet of the 120-nation grouping began with the national anthem of Iran followed by the recitation of the verses from the holy Quran.
Coming in the midst of reservations expressed by the US and some other western countries, Tehran is projecting the 16th NAM Summit as a big diplomatic victory, notwithstanding the sanctions and other financial restrictions imposed on it.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is leading the Indian delegation to the Summit, which is being attended by over 30 Heads of State and Government.
The Summit is being held after a two-day experts' meeting and a conference of the foreign ministers of the NAM member states which also lasted for two days.
The guest list also includes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Summit opened with Iran assuming the Chair from Egypt for the next three years.
Important leaders attending the summit included Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi, Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The US and Western countries have accused Iran of pursuing a clandestine and dangerous nuclear weapons programme.
Iran says its nuclear programme is a peaceful drive to produce electricity so that the world's fourth-largest crude oil exporter can sell more of its oil and gas abroad.
The Non-Aligned Movement, the rotating presidency of which was conferred to Iran on August 26, comprises two-third of the UN member states and was established in 1961 in Belgrade.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012, 09:21