Clinton: Iran flouts the rules

US, several European delegations walk out as Ahmadinejad addresses UN.

Hillary Clinton 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Hillary Clinton 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
UNITED NATIONS — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, accusing Iran of "flouting the rules," called Monday for a strong international response to Teheran's alleged development of a nuclear weapons program.
Earlier in the day, the first in a monthlong conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected such allegations, saying Washington has offered not "a single credible proof."
Because of suspicions Iranian uranium enrichment is designed to produce bombs, the US is negotiating with other Security Council nations here to impose a fourth round of UN economic sanctions against Iran.
Clinton proposed that the nonproliferation treaty be strengthened by introducing "automatic penalties" for noncompliance, rather than depending on such drawn-out council diplomacy.
Iran's actions have "placed the future of the nonproliferation regime in jeopardy," she said.
The secretary of state also announced a new US initiative on stockpile "transparency" that would provide previously undisclosed details about the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The Obama administration was expected to release a more precise accounting of the US nuclear arsenal in Washington later in the day.
Ahmadinejad to Obama: Set timetable for abolishing all arms
Iran's Ahmadinejad, addressing delegations of 189 treaty nations, denounced the Obama administration's refusal to rule out the use of US nuclear weapons.
"Regrettably, the government of the United States has not only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such weapons against other countries, including Iran," Ahmadinejad said.
He referred to the new US Nuclear Posture Review's provision retaining an option to use US atomic arms against countries not in compliance with the nonproliferation pact, a charge Washington lays against Iran.
Ahmadinejad also invited US President Barack Obama to join a "humane movement" that would set a timetable for abolishing all atomic arms, weapons he called "disgusting and shameful."
As the Iranian president spoke, the US delegation, of working-level staff, walked out of the General Assembly hall, as did several European delegations, including the French and British.
Opening the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon directly challenged Teheran.
"The onus is on Iran to clarify the doubts and concerns about its program," the UN chief told the delegates.
He called on the Teheran government "to fully comply with Security Council resolutions" demanding that it halt enrichment, which Washington and others contend is meant to produce the nuclear fuel for bombs in violation of Iran's NPT obligations.
Later, Yukiya Amano, head of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, said his inspectors could not confirm all of Iran's nuclear material is devoted to peaceful activities. He called on Iran to "clarify activities with a possible military dimension."
Ahmadinejad, the only head of state participating in the conference, complained that the US and its allies were pressuring Iran "on the false pretext of probable diversions in their peaceful nuclear activities without providing even a single credible proof to substantiate their allegation."
The Iranian leader reiterated his country's support for establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, an Arab-backed idea aimed at Israel's unacknowledged nuclear arsenal of perhaps 80 bombs. He also called on the US to dismantle its tactical nuclear weapons on NATO bases in Europe.
Ahmadinejad's appearance came at the start of a four-week diplomatic marathon meant to produce a consensus final document pointing toward ways to better achieve the NPT's goals of checking the spread of nuclear weapons, while working toward reducing and eventually eliminating them.
START treaty encapsulates NPT's vision
The treaty is regarded as the world's single most important pact on nuclear arms, credited with preventing their proliferation to dozens of nations since it entered into force in 1970.
Treaty members gather every five years to discuss new approaches to problems, by agreeing, for example, that the IAEA should be strengthened. The only countries that are not treaty members are India, Pakistan, North Korea, all of which have nuclear arsenals or weapons programs, and Israel, which has an unacknowledged nuclear arsenal.
At three of seven past conferences, delegates failed to produce a declaration, including in 2005, at a time when the US administration, under President George W. Bush, was unenthusiastic about arms control talks.
Obama has steered the US back onto a negotiating track, including with a new US-Russian agreement to reduce their thousands of long-range nuclear arms. Despite that, Libran N. Cabactulan, the Philippine diplomat who is president of this 2010 NPT conference, said he finds the No. 1 goal of many treaty nations is to press the NPT nuclear powers — also including Britain, France and China — to move more rapidly toward disarmament.