ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has accused the West of treating Iran unfairly over its nuclear programme, in comments that come as world powers await Tehran’s response to a U.N.-drafted plan.
“We are not in favour of there being weapons of mass destruction in Iran and in our region”, Erdogan told Arabic broadcaster Al Jazeera, state-run Anatolian news agency said on Monday.
Erdogan, who starts a two day visit to Tehran on Monday, also said in the interview broadcast on Sunday it was “unfair and unjust” to pressure Iran when other countries have such weapons. He did not mention any particular country, but Israel is believed to be the only nuclear-armed Middle East state.
Erdogan’s comments appear to set NATO member Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country that has applied to join the European Union, at odds with Ankara’s traditional Western allies, including the United States.
Turkey has forged closer ties with fellow Muslim Iran since Erdogan’s Islamist-ruling AK Party took power in 2002, signing energy deals and boosting trade.
The United States, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany have been holding talks with Iran about its nuclear programme which Western countries fear could be aimed at building a nuclear bomb. Tehran says its programme is peaceful.
On Friday, Iran said it would give an answer this week to the U.N.-drafted deal for it to cut an atomic stockpile the West fears could be used for weapons, ignoring an Oct 23 deadline and challenging the basis of the pact.
Ankara, which has expanded its regional clout in the Middle East, is a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. It has said it favours diplomacy with Iran and that sanctions are not the right response.