Iran, North Korea could spark arms races: Hillary

Clinton said Iran may use next week`s talks to discuss its N-prog, which may be a threat to world.

Manama: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday the world hoped Iran would use next week`s talks to fully discuss its nuclear program, which she said was as much of a threat to global peace as North Korea.

Speaking in Bahrain where she is attending a security conference, Clinton said the entire region was concerned about Iran`s nuclear aspirations and hoped Tehran would come to the talks in Geneva next week ready to negotiate.

"Perhaps the Iranians, with their return to the talks in Geneva starting Monday, will engage seriously with the international community on what is a concern shared by nations on every continent but most particularly right here in the region," Clinton said.

Talks between Iran and six big powers -- the United States, France, Russia, Britain, China and Germany -- are due to resume next week in Geneva, the first such meeting in more than a year.

Clinton, who will meet the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea in Washington on Monday to discuss mounting tension with North Korea, said the twin threats posed by Pyongyang and Tehran showed the need for international solidarity against nuclear proliferation.

"We`re all concerned about these two countries...(but) its not directed at the people of either country. It is a concern about decisions being made by the leaders of these countries that puts at risk the peace and stability of two regions in the world," Clinton said.

The United States has no quarrel with Iran`s desire to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, she added.

"What we object to is the pursuit of nuclear weapons that can be used to threaten and intimidate their neighbors. It will spark arms races in both regions," Clinton said.

Clinton said on Thursday that North Korea posed an "immediate threat" following its revelations of new nuclear facilities and an artillery attack on a South Korean island which sent tensions on the divided peninsula soaring.

Regional fears

Clinton`s trip to Bahrain, where she will deliver a speech later on Friday on the US role in regional security, follows revelations contained in leaked US embassy cables which showed many regional leaders privately urged Washington to take a tougher stance on Tehran.

The leaks, contained in documents made public by the website Wikileaks, showed that fears over Iran`s nuclear program are widespread and that some in the region believe it should be stopped at any cost.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa of Bahrain, one of the countries said to be pushing hard for action against Tehran, declined to discuss details contained in documents that he said were US government property.

But he said that any move toward a nuclear weapons program in the region was unacceptable.

"We do believe that every country in the Middle East has the right to nuclear power for peaceful use -- when it comes to taking that power to developing into a cycle for weapons grade (nuclear material), that is something that we can never accept and we can never live with in this region," he said.

US officials say there is still time for a diplomatic solution with Iran but the increasingly defiant state must take "tangible steps" to address concerns about its nuclear program.

US officials also say economic sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program -- which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes -- are biting increasingly deeply, and may be cutting investment in its crucial energy sector by as much as $60 billion.

Bureau Report