Geneva: Ahead of a round of major nuclear talks, the five big powers on Friday labelled North Korea and Iran as "serious challenges" to the world`s nuclear security, citing their repeated defiance of international obligations.
Senior diplomats from the UN Security Council`s five permanent members singled out North Korea`s nuclear test in February and Iran`s "continued pursuit of certain nuclear activities" as among the biggest threats to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the world`s most important pact on preventing the spread of nuclear arms.
A joint statement by Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States also called for establishing the Middle East, where Iran enjoys close ties with Russia, as a zone free of nuclear weapons.
The statement preceded two weeks of talks in Geneva over the NPT, which has been signed by 190 nations and is credited with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to dozens of nations in the 43 years since it entered into force.
Iran is a member, but North Korea - along with India, Pakistan and Israel - are not.
The treaty commits nations without nuclear weapons to refrain from acquiring them. Those with them commit to take steps toward their elimination. All who sign agree that everyone has a right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.
Nations meet every five years to review the treaty and try to find new approaches to old problems. The next such review will be in 2015.