Iran to take part in talks on nuclear-free Middle East

Tue Nov 6, 2012 12:48pm EST
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By Adrian Croft

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Iran said on Tuesday it would go to a proposed international conference in December on creating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, but there was little hope of progress even if the meeting goes ahead given deep-rooted regional animosities.

Tehran has been embroiled in a long stand-off with world powers over allegations, which it denies, that it is seeking to develop the means to produce nuclear weapons.

No date has yet been set for the meeting in the Finnish capital later this year to discuss banning atomic arms and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the volatile Middle East and there are doubts over whether it will take place.

Even if it does go ahead - Israel, believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, has yet to say whether it will attend - Western diplomats expect little progress soon.

Iran used a seminar in Brussels attended also by officials from Israel- its arch-enemy - to announce it would be at the Helsinki meeting.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran now finally has decided to participate at the conference...on a Middle East (nuclear) free zone," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters.

Soltanieh said Iran was "determined to participate actively" in the Helsinki conference, which he said could pave the way for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Iran and Arab states often say Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal poses a threat to Middle East peace and security.   Continued...