Iran's leaders hit out at nuclear 'bullies'

Iran's leaders issued a strong challenge to the United States and Britain today accusing them of using their nuclear weapons to 'bully and intimidate' countries without the bomb.

In a message delivered to an international conference convened by the Islamic regime in Tehran, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Washington and its allies of double standards by calling for nuclear non-proliferation while maintaining stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

In an even more uncompromising speech which made no reference to the recent START treaty committing the US and Russia to reduce their stockpiles of warheads, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the 'bullying and aggressor regime of the United States' of violating their own obligations to disarmament under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) while seeking to punish other NPT states which did not possess weapons. He demanded that the US and other nuclear armed nations should be ejected from the board of directors of the UN nuclear watchdog the IAEA.

Iran is hosting the Tehran conference as part of what appears to be a concerted diplomatic campaign to turn the tables on the Western powers amid efforts by President Barack Obama to rally support in the UN for harsh sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Tehran is preparing the ground for a fresh counter attack in the nuclear standoff by seeking support from sympathetic governments who routinely accuse the nuclear armed states of hypocrisy, ahead of a 190 nation conference to review the forty year old NPT to be held in New York next month. It wants the right to enrich uranium to be reinforced in the treaty.

The Tehran gathering comes just days after President Obama used a meeting of 50 governments in Washington to discuss nuclear disarmament t\o support sanctions on Iran. Iranian ministers, who were not invited to Washington denied yesterday that their event was organized as a counterweight

Delegates gathered at a convention centre in north western suburb of the Iranian capital were first shown a film of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In his address Mr Ahmadinejad then told them that America was the planet's only 'atomic criminal' and accused it of using a weapon of 'atomic waste' during the waron Iraq. He stressed meanwhile that Iran, which the West accuses of seeking a nuclear weapons capability, regarded nuclear weapons as 'haram' or forbidden under Islamic teaching. He said a 'handful of arrogant and expansionist states' were determined to maintain their nuclear arsenals and to arm their ally 'the Zionist regime'.

The slogan for the two day meeting which can be seen on billboards around the Iranian capital is 'Nuclear energy for all, nuclear power for none'.

Russa and China, both being lobbied hard by the US to support a punitive sanctions package against Iran have sent delegates to Tehran. Neither the US nor any of the Eiropean Union's 27 nations are represented.

The Iranian president pledged Iran's full cooperation with global disarmament but called for the US to be kicked out of the Board of Directors of the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog. He said Iran also wanted to see the launch of an independent international panel to supervise nuclear disarmament under the NPT and urgent reform of the UN Security Council.

Fraser Cameron, director of the EU=Russia thinktank, who is attending the conference, said it was 'astonishing' in the context of international efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff, that Mr Ahmadinejad had chosen to disregard the new disarmament treaty signed by the US and Russia in his keynote speech. 'This shows his attitude is still that he wants to blame the Great Satan for all the world's evils'

But he said Western powers should show more understanding for Iran's grievances. Delegates from a number of developing countries said the speech had to be seen in the context of Iran's belief in its right to develop a peaceful nuclear energy programme.