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Politics

Clinton says Iran puts world at nuclear risk

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday said that Iran’s nuclear ambitions put the world at risk and called on nations to rally around U.S. efforts to finally hold Tehran to account.

In a high-stakes speech that comes as the United States seeks to build support for new United Nations sanctions on Iran, Clinton said Tehran would not succeed in efforts to divert attention and evade responsibility.

“Iran is the only country represented in this hall that has been found by the IAEA board of governors to be currently in non-compliance with its nuclear safeguard obligations,” Clinton said in a speech to a Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference at the United Nations.

“It has defied the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA and placed the future of the non-proliferation regime in jeopardy, and that is why it is facing increasing isolation and pressure from the international community,” she said.

Clinton spoke to the meeting of the 189 signatories of the 1970 NPT just hours after Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used his speech to slam the United States for what he said were threats to use nuclear weapons on his country. The U.S. and several other Western delegations walked out.

Clinton dismissed Ahmadinejad’s comments as the “same tired, false and sometimes wild accusations” that the world had heard before, and urged nations to focus on efforts to bring Iran to heel.

“Iran will not succeed in its efforts to divert and divide. The United States and the great majority of the nations represented here come to this conference with a much larger agenda,” Clinton said.

“Now is the time to build consensus, not to block it,” said Clinton, who has been driving U.S. efforts to craft tough new U.N. sanctions to punish Tehran.

Those negotiations are now taking place among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- along with Germany, and the United States wants to see a new sanctions resolution as soon as possible.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, at United Nations Headquarters, in New York, May 3, 2010. The objective of the treaty, which took effect in 1970, is to halt the spread of nuclear weapons-making capability, guarantee the right of all members to develop nuclear energy for peaceful ends and -- for the original five nuclear weapons powers -- to phase out their arsenals. REUTERS/Chip East (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

Russia and China are negotiating reluctantly, however, and several other non-permanent members of the Security Council including Brazil and Turkey are also urging that diplomacy with Tehran be given more time to revive an earlier proposed deal covering Iran’s nuclear fuel.

Clinton said Iran had a history of “confusing, contradictory and inaccurate statements” about its nuclear program and had shown no real wish to address fears about it.

THE NUCLEAR DEAL

Clinton’s speech at the United Nations was in large part a sales job, hoping to persuade wavering countries that the United States is committed not only to heading off new nuclear threats, but also to expanding peaceful access to nuclear power for countries that follow international rules.

Clinton detailed what she described as the strong U.S. record on nuclear non-proliferation and weapons control, including the recently concluded U.S.-Russia deal to cap strategic nuclear weapons and the new U.S. nuclear policy which sets new limits when and where atomic weapons might be used.

In a further gesture toward transparency, the United States on Monday disclosed for the first time the current size of its nuclear arsenal, saying it had a total of 5,113 warheads operationally deployed, kept in active reserve and held in inactive storage.

Clinton also said Washington would contribute $50 million to a drive to raise $100 million to support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy in developing nations.

She said the United States would ratify nuclear weapons-free zones in Africa and the South Pacific and also support “practical measures” to establish the Middle East as a region free of weapons of mass destruction -- which could pique U.S. ally Israel, presumed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal.

Clinton later told reporters, however, that conditions for such a zone in the Middle East did not yet exist.

She said the world stood at a crossroads, facing a future either of sharply reduced nuclear risk or of a spread of nuclear-armed states and groups, and that issues such as Iran’s nuclear program could determine which path is taken.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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