Tue, May 23, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Arab League blasts US accusations

NOT CREDIBLE The chief of the league demanded to see evidence from the UN that Iran wanted nuclear weapons, and said he backs a nuclear-free Middle East

AP , SHARM EL-SHEIK, EGYPT

The Arab League chief on Monday said US charges that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons had no credibility in the Arab world and demanded that the allegation be supported by proof from the UN nuclear watchdog.

Amr Mousa further declared that Arabs want the whole region to be free of nuclear weapons, including the arsenal Israel is believed to possess.

"The Middle East does not need a military nuclear program, be it Iranian, Israeli or other," Moussa told a news conference at the World Economic Forum meeting on the Middle East. "Our goal and interest is to have a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction."

The US has accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon and is supported in its demands by Britain, France and Germany that Tehran stop enriching uranium.

The US and its European allies are pushing for a UN Security Council resolution that would demand that Iran stop enrichment or face possible sanctions, including military enforcement.

Iran claims its nuclear program is designed purely to generate electricity. Enriched uranium can fuel reactors to produce power, but, if sufficiently processed, also can serve as the core of an atomic bomb.

Iran was absent from the three-day meeting of global business and political leaders in this flourishing Egyptian Red Sea resort, which was to end yesterday afternoon. The meetings focused on dialogue, democracy and development in the Middle East.

Moussa's words on Israel, which is believed to have a stockpile of nuclear weapons, echoed the complaints of most Arab leaders and the general public.

Moussa and other Arab leaders ask why the West overlooks Israel's alleged weapons development, while pressing Iran to drop a program it claims is for peaceful purposes.

"Why should Israel be special?" Moussa asked. "We're all scared of a nuclear weapon, whether it is with country A or country B."

He said Arabs were unconvinced by US charges and European concerns over Iran given what they see as a double standard.

"For this reason, the policy aimed at the Iranian nuclear program does not enjoy credibility and comprehensive support in the Middle East," he said.

Moussa said Iran and other Middle Eastern countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty had the right to develop civilian nuclear power programs, but weapons production was banned.

"If there is an Iranian military nuclear program -- and I underline if -- [proof of] it should be based on documented information from the International Atomic Energy Agency, not on information coming from here and there," he said.

Moussa said he had no confidence in the current claims, emanating from Washington and Israel.

"It has been proven in the Iraq war that there was information that was deliberately or inadvertently false. ... Information must come from an international organization that is credible and responsible," he said.

His remarks made reference to the Bush administration's use of claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction as a rationale for invading the country and removing him from power in 2003. The weapons allegations proved false.

Syria and Hamas, the militant group that is in control of the Palestinian government after winning elections in January, also were absent from the Sharm meetings.

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