VIENNA: Iran and Arab nations Monday criticized a decision to put off talks on banning atomic bombs in the Middle East, with Tehran blaming the United States for a “serious setback” to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United States said Friday that the mid-December conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction would not occur and did not make clear when, or whether, it would take place.
The postponement “will have a negative impact on regional security and the international system to prevent nuclear proliferation as a whole,” Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said.
Iran, which is accused by the West of developing a nuclear weapons capability, said this month it would participate in the talks that had been due to take place in Helsinki, Finland.
Asked about the U.S. announcement, Iranian nuclear envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told state broadcaster Press TV from Vienna: “It is a serious setback to the NPT and this is a clear sign that the U.S. is not committed to the obligation of a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Elaraby said all regional states except Israel had voiced willingness to attend the conference.
He called for an urgent meeting of senior Arab officials this week to consider the developments.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 27, 2012, on page 10.