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(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran's foreign minister told a UN conference in New York on Wednesday on the illicit trade of small arms that Iran's priority was to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially what he characterized as a threat posed by Israel.
"Fighting proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and combatting the threats posed by those possessing those weapons, particularly the Zionist regime, will always remain our greater goal," Manouchehr Mottaki said.
The minister said Iran wants to promote peace and security "on the basis of justice and free from any and all discriminatory and double-standard considerations."
Meanwhile, Mottaki has indicated that his country may respond before mid-July to an international package aimed at resolving a standoff over its nuclear program, a German magazine reported Wednesday.
Western countries have pressed for a prompt reply to the package of incentives, delivered to Iran on June 6. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country would take until mid-August to respond.
Pressed for an indication on when the West may hear from Teheran, Mottaki told German weekly Stern "if everyone maintains good will, talks could begin soon."
Mottaki was asked whether that might happen before the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, which starts July 15 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was quoted as replying: "Yes - if we clear up some open questions before then."
Mottaki also insisted that "we did not agree on any date for an answer with (Javier) Solana," the European Union foreign policy chief who presented the package to Iran.
He noted that it had taken other countries "months to put together the package."
"In our country, there are various views, worries and doubts - naturally we need a while to react," he was quoted as saying.
The offer was drawn up by the UN Security Council's five permanent members and Germany.
The package seeks to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment in return for incentives including a US offer to provide Iran with peaceful nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations with Tehran.
In Wednesday's interview, Mottaki repeated Iran's longstanding insistence that "our nuclear activities are peaceful - we are not seeking nuclear weapons."