As top US officials variously meet leading Saudis, Iran’s deputy foreign minister calls for Riyadh to open its atomic sites to full inspection and for Israel to sign NPT.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Reza Najafi Tuesday urged Saudi Arabia to be transparent over its nuclear activities and open up the access of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Najafi rejected remarks by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan earlier Tuesday to the UN General Assembly criticising “Iran's continued breaches and violations of international agreements and treaties related to the nuclear agreement, and its escalation of its nuclear activities in addition to research and development activities.”
Addressing the UN General Assembly’s high-level meeting held to commemorate and promote International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (September 26), Najafi said Iran rejected the retention, stockpiling, development, use, and proliferation of nuclear arms.
Iran is in a dispute with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over traces of previously undeclared radioactive material that it has failed to fully explain and over monitoring access to the UN nuclear watchdog.
Reza Najafi, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for legal affairs. FILE PHOTO
It has also been enriching uranium to 60 percent and stockpiling it in violation of the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.
Najafi condemned the modernization and strengthening of nuclear arsenals by the United States and other nuclear-weapon states in violation of their arms-reduction commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Najafi said Israel continued to "threaten peace and security in the Middle East and beyond through its clandestine nuclear program," and urged the world to invite Israel to join the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA monitoring.
Unlike Israel, which is believed to hold around 180 nuclear bombs, both Iran and Saudi Arabia are NPT signatories. Saudi Arabia – which has no nuclear reactor but reportedly past nuclear links with both Iraq and Pakistani scientist AQ Khan – has limited the Safeguards access of the IAEA under a ‘small quantities protocol.’
Referring to a 2018 interview with the US CBC's 60 Minutes program in which Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman suggested Riyadh might adopt nuclear weapons if Iran developed one, Iran's state-run English channel Press TVand Tasnim news agency both claimed Wednesday that there is “international concern” over Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions.
Saudi Arabia backed former United States president Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from Iran’s 2015 deal with world powers limiting its nuclear program – the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The new administration of President Joe Biden has continued Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions as Iran has continued to expand its atomic program with steps that began in 2019.
Prince Faisal this week met with US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss recent developments in Iran's nuclear case. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia Tuesday to discuss Yemen and Iran - the White House kept Sullivan’s visit low-profile and no photos were issued.
In his speech to the annual UN General Assembly last week, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz expressed hope that continuing talks with Iran, brokered by Baghdad, to restore relations would build confidence. The kingdom cut diplomatic ties in 2016 when protestors attacked its Tehran embassy after Riyadh executed 47 dissidents including leading Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.