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July 28, 2017

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Iran slams United States as 'world's only atomic criminal'

TEHRAN -- Iran slammed the United States as an "atomic criminal" which should be suspended from the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Saturday, while urging changes to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

At a two-day nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran, the foreign ministers of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq voiced support for Iran's "peaceful" atomic program and demanded that Israel join the nuclear NPT "without conditions."

At the start of the meeting, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out any use of nuclear weaponry as "haram," meaning religiously banned under Islam.

He branded the United States an "atomic criminal" in his message which was read out by an aide at the conference, Tehran's answer to a nuclear summit held in Washington earlier this week.

Hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went a step further and called for Washington's suspension from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) along with all other nations which possess nuclear arms.

"Only the U.S. government has committed an atomic crime," said the message of the all-powerful Khamenei who formulates Tehran's foreign policy, including its nuclear strategy. "The world's only atomic criminal lies and presents itself as being against nuclear weapons proliferation, while it has not taken any serious measures in this regard," he said.

Ahmadinejad, under whose presidency Iran has aggressively pushed ahead with a controversial nuclear program despite three sets of U.N. sanctions, attacked the present structure of the U.N. Security Council, the IAEA and the NPT.

"An independent international group which plans and oversees nuclear disarmament and prevents proliferation should be set up," he told the conference attended by several foreign ministers and U.N. officials.

He said those countries which "possess, have used or threatened to use nuclear weapons should be suspended from the IAEA and its board of governors, especially the U.S."

Ahmadinejad's remark was expected to irk allies Russia and China, two nuclear states with veto powers in the Security Council that have so far hesitated to back a fourth set of sanctions against Tehran.

The policy limits the countries against which Washington might use its nuclear arsenal but singles out Iran and North Korea as exceptions for flouting Security Council resolutions over their nuclear programs.

Ahmadinejad also called upon "independent countries" to review the NPT, of which Iran is a signatory and as such considers it has the right to enrich uranium, the most controversial part of its nuclear program.

"The presence of those possessing weapons, especially the U.S., prevents the drawing up of a fair treaty," he argued.

The foreign ministers of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq jointly blasted Israel, Middle East's sole but undeclared nuclear weapons power.

"The major threat in the region is Israel which has nuclear warheads. Israel must join this treaty and take quick steps to destroy its nuclear weapons," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in a speech.

His Lebanese counterpart Ali al-Shami said Israel should be "stripped" of its arsenal "since the atomic weapons of the Zionist regime are not inspected, there is a danger of these weapons being used in the future."

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