Iran to take part in nuclear-free Middle East talks

Ambassador to the IAEA says Iran "decided to participate" in international conference in Finland on creating nuclear-free zone.

IRANIAN IAEA AMBASSADOR Ali Asghar Soltanieh 390 (photo credit: Herwig Prammer/Reuters)
IRANIAN IAEA AMBASSADOR Ali Asghar Soltanieh 390
(photo credit: Herwig Prammer/Reuters)
BRUSSELS - Iran, accused by the West of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability, said on Tuesday it would take part in a proposed international conference in December on creating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran now finally has decided to participate at the conference in Finland, in Helsinki, in December on a Middle East (nuclear) free zone," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters in Brussels.
No date has yet been set for the meeting in the Finnish capital later this year on establishing a zone without nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction in the volatile region and there are questions over whether it will take place.
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Israel, which has drawn frequent Arab and Iranian condemnation over its presumed nuclear arsenal, has not yet said whether it will attend the proposed Helsinki conference.
Soltanieh was in Brussels to attend in an invitation-only seminar, organized by think-tanks, to promote efforts to hold the conference.
Several Israelis were also present at the seminar, according to Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on nuclear non-proliferation from Britain's International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank, who was involved in organizing the event.
Iran has held years of on-off negotiations with Western powers over its nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but which the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
Israel, the only regional state not to belong to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has said it would sign the NPT and renounce nuclear arms only as part of a broader Middle East peace deal with Arab states and Iran that guaranteed its security.
Israel has never confirmed or denied having nuclear arms under a policy of ambiguity aimed at deterrence, has made clear it believes the Middle East is not yet ready for the creation of a zone free of such weapons.