May 21, 2018 / 8:46 PM / in a month

Turkey's Erdogan says nuclear-armed states 'threatening the world'

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused countries with nuclear weapons of “threatening the world”, and criticized the United States’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an iftar dinner in Ankara, Turkey May 21, 2018. Murat Kula/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.

“Those who have more than 15,000 nuclear warheads are currently threatening the world,” he said, referring to the approximate total number of warheads worldwide, most of which are held by the United States and Russia.

Apparently referring to such states as Iran, he added: “Why are countries with nuclear warheads posing a threat to them?”

“If we are to be fair, to show a just approach, then the countries with nuclear weapons, which portray nuclear power stations as threats, have no credibility in the international community,” he said at an iftar dinner for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Erdogan said the Middle East had to be cleansed of all nuclear weapons, in an apparent reference to Israel, believed to be the only nation in the region to possess them.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States 10 days ago from the deal between Tehran and six major powers which limited Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Trump ordered that sanctions be reimposed.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an iftar dinner in Ankara, Turkey May 21, 2018. Murat Kula/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.

Earlier on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded Iran take additional steps such as pulling out of the Syrian civil war.

Iran dismissed Washington’s ultimatum and a senior Iranian official said it showed the United States was seeking “regime change” in Iran.

The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal comes as relations between NATO member Turkey and Washington have soured over a host of issues, ranging from U.S. policy in Syria to Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

France, Germany and Britain have said they will try to save the nuclear deal with Tehran.

“As Turkey, we do not accept re-igniting issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, that have been put to bed. We find the other signatories stating their loyalty to the agreement in the face of the U.S. administration’s decision very positive,” Erdogan said.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; editing by Andrew Roche

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