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US and Iran clash at nuclear talks

Hillary Clinton: "The onus is on Iran"

Iran's nuclear ambitions are putting the world at risk, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned.

She told delegates at a nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference that Iran had violated its obligations and should be held to account.

Earlier, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran accused states with nuclear weapons of threatening those who wanted to develop peaceful nuclear technology.

His comments prompted delegates from the US, the UK, France to walk out.

The US Department of Defense later disclosed that it had a total of 5,113 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, a closely-guarded secret for decades.

Mrs Clinton said the move was to improve transparency in the nuclear disarmament regime and encourage other nations to comply with it.

"So for those who doubt that the United States will do its part on disarmament, this is our record, these are our commitments and they send a clear unmistakable signal," she told the NPT conference.

'Fire against humanity'

Throughout her speech on Monday, Mrs Clinton regularly rounded on Iran, accusing President Ahmadinejad of offering the same "tired, false and sometimes wild accusations" against the US and others.

MARDELL'S AMERICA
Mark Mardell
Mr Ahmadinejad's speech - or perhaps I mean lecture - was pure theatre. Studded with pious references, it was a stern warning about the evils of nuclear weapons
Mark Mardell
BBC North America editor

"Iran will do whatever it can to divert attention away from its own record in an attempt to evade accountability," she said.

"Iran is the only country represented in this hall that has been found by the [International Atomic Energy Agency] board of governors to be currently in non-compliance with its nuclear safeguard obligations."

"It has defied the UN 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 added.

The US is currently negotiating with other Security Council members to impose a fourth round of UN economic sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment programme.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) comprises a grand bargain, BBC Diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticised nuclear powers for failing to disarm

The five major nuclear powers - the US, the former Soviet Union, China, the UK and France - agreed to eventually disarm. Other signatories agreed never to develop nuclear weapons in return for receiving full access to civilian nuclear technology.

But, our correspondent says, the bargain is looking increasingly threadbare, with critics arguing that the original nuclear weapons states have not taken their disarmament responsibilities seriously.

In his speech, Mr Ahmadinejad criticised nuclear powers for failing to disarm, saying their "production, stockpiling and qualitative improvement of nuclear armaments... now serves as a justification for the others to develop their own".

"The nuclear bomb is a fire against humanity, rather than a weapon of defence. The possession of nuclear bombs is not a source of pride. Its possession is disgusting and shameful," he said.



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