(photo credit: Associated Press)
TEHERAN, Iran — Iran will file a formal complaint with the UN against the United States after US President Barack Obama excluded Iran from a pledge not to use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said Sunday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Obama's implicit threat to use nuclear weapons against Iran was a "threat to global peace and security," according to Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency.
Earlier Sunday, 222 lawmakers in Iran's 290-seat parliament called on the Iranian government to file the complaint.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, also said Obama's threatening language is proof that the US cannot be trusted.
Obama announced America's new nuclear strategy Tuesday, including a vow not to use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them. Iran, however, was pointedly excepted from that pledge, along with North Korea, because Washington accuses them of not cooperating with the international community on nonproliferation standards.
Obama's new nuclear strategy turns the US focus away from the Cold War threats and instead aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons to rogue states or terrorists. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the focus would now be on terror groups such as al-Qaida as well as North Korea's nuclear buildup and Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied that, saying its nuclear program is peaceful.
"We will formally hand over our complaint to the United Nations in response to these threats," Mehmanparast said Sunday. "Such statements show that countries possessing nuclear weapons themselves are the biggest threat to world security."
Iran, meanwhile, is pushing ahead with its nuclear work. On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled a third generation of centrifuge that will be used to accelerate a uranium enrichment program that is of central concern to the US and its allies.
Enrichment is used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants, but it also provides a possible pathway to nuclear weapons development. Three sets of UN sanctions have failed to pressure Iran to stop enrichment. The United States is leading the push for a fourth round of penalties.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a TV news program on Sunday that Iran's claimed advancements should be taken "with more than a grain of salt."
"But in fact their belligerence is helping to make our case every single day," Clinton told ABC's "This week." ''Countries that might have had doubts about Iranian intentions, who might have even questioned whether Iran was seeking nuclear weapons, are having those doubts dispelled as much by the evidence we present as by what comes out of the leadership of Iran."
The exception from the US non-use pledge represents a warning to Teheran. But the Obama administration's new nuclear policy guidelines also aim to show Washington is serious about reducing its own arsenal and about gathering world support for stricter safeguards against nuclear proliferation — a step aimed at further isolating Iran diplomatically.
Iran's top leader, Khamenei, said the US president's remarks were "disgraceful."
"The US president has implicitly threatened the Iranian nation with
nuclear weapons. These remarks are very strange. The world should not
ignore it because in the 21st century ... the head of a state is
threatening a nuclear attack. The US president's remarks are
disgraceful," Khamenei said Sunday on state television.
"These remarks mean the US government is a villain government that can't be trusted," he said.
On Sunday, Iran also announced the development of a more advanced
anti-aircraft system able to hit aircraft at low and medium altitudes.
The new defense system uses Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile.
Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel
and the US have refused to rule out airstrikes if diplomacy fails to
stop Iran's enrichment program.
Iran's nuclear facilities are scattered around the country and some are
deep underground or in mountainsides to protect them from attack.