The six-world powers are closer than ever to a deal with Tehran that would “close off” Iran’s ability to produce atomic weapons, US Secretary of State John Kerry optimistically told member states of the UN’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on Monday.
“I want you to know the hard work is far from over and some key issues remain unresolved. But we are, in fact, closer than ever to the good comprehensive deal that we have been seeking. And if we can get there, the entire world will be safer,” Kerry said.
Israel has opposed the deal which the six world powers — the US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany — hope to finalize by June 30. Jerusalem has argued that the deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear weapons program and leave it with the ability, after a decade, to become a nuclear threshold state with almost no break-out time.
Kerry told the NPT that the deal would put in place a verification program that would monitor Iran’s nuclear program and ensure the international community that it was indeed peaceful.
“We have said from the beginning that any deal with Iran will rely not on promises, not on words, but on proof,” Kerry said.
Yukiya Amano, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program for the UN, said the deal would help with those efforts.
It would provide “credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in the country,” Amano said.
But Amano warned that at present, the IAEA “is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is for peaceful activities.”
In spite of the international community’s concern that Iran could become a nuclear threshold state, it’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, was the first speaker at the NPT conference.
Nuclear disarmament is the highest priority and the “existence of nuclear weapons poses the greatest threat to humanity,” Zarif said, as he spoke on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
He called on the nuclear weapons states — the US, China, Russia, France and Great Britain — to reduce their nuclear arsenals and to stop modernizing those weapons whose use is a crime against humanity.
Still, he noted, “Concerns related to nuclear proliferation shall not in any way restrain the inalienable right of any state party to develop all aspects of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes.”
Zarif called for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East and attacked Israel, which is presumed to have nuclear weapons. Israel neither confirms nor denies this widespread assumption. Like nuclear powers India and Pakistan, which are members of the Non-Aligned Movement, Israel has not signed the NPT.
The NPT, however, did on Monday accept a request from Israel to be an observer state to the treaty.
Zarif in his speech
condemned Israel for “continuing to develop and stockpile nuclear arsenals” and charged that it posed a “serious threat" to the region.
There must be, Zarif said, a “total and complete prohibition of the transfer of related equipment, information, material and facilities, resources or devices and the extension of assistance in the nuclear related scientific or technological fields to Israel.”
The review conference, which opened in New York on Monday, will continue until May 22.Reuters contributed to this report.