West makes fuss about Iran, ignores Israel: Egypt

January 18, 2006 - 0:0
CAIRO, Egypt (Reuters) - Egypt told U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney it supported efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East but slammed the West for turning a blind eye to Israel's atomic program, one official said.

Cheney was in Cairo as part of a Middle East tour that includes Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on several subjects including a standoff between the West and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.

"The last thing we need in the Middle East is a nuclear weapon arms race," presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad said.

"But we cannot ignore Egyptian and Arab world public opinion (that refuses) to ... make all this fuss about the Iranian nuclear program while turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the Israeli nuclear program and arsenal."

Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has never confirmed or denied their existence and is not a party to the NPT.

Egypt, who is a member of the governing board of the UN nuclear watchdog the IAEA has said it wants to see the standoff ended by dialogue.

Awad said Cheney's request for Egypt's support was part of an international effort by the United States and Europe.

Egypt, which has fought four wars with Israel, has long campaigned for making the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and complains that the West ignores Israel's nuclear capability.

Peaceful nuclear activities, Iran's legal right: Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said here Monday night that engaging in peaceful nuclear activities is Iran's legal right, IRNA reported.

The Turkish prime minister made the remarks during a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart, Marouf al-Bakhit.

He said Turkey favors continuation of the nuclear talks between Iran and the three European states -- Germany, France and Britain -- with full transparency.

"More moderate, more conciliatory efforts by Iran, I believe, are important for world peace and carry significance for peace in the region as well," Erdogan said.

French FM to discuss Iran in Moscow

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy will go to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the standoff between Western powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, France said on Tuesday. "Iran will be at the top of the agenda," a French Foreign Ministry spokesman told a regular news briefing.

"For us it is clear that Russia's position on this issue is very important."

Meanwhile India on Monday expressed "regret" over comments made by Iran's top nuclear negotiator that New Delhi received preferential international treatment on nuclear proliferation issues, AFP reported.

"We have seen comments made by Ali Larijani regarding India in a recent interview. We regret this reference to India," said a statement released by the Indian foreign ministry.

"India is a responsible nuclear weapon state and has always been in compliance with its obligations under international treaties and agreements."

On January 12, CNN aired an interview with Larijani, in which the official asserted Iran's right to pursue peaceful nuclear activities and noted that the country submits to international inspections while several nations that already possess nuclear weapons do not.

"Countries that produce nuclear weapons are neither members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nor signatories to the (nuclear) Non-Proliferation Treaty," Larijani said.

"Iran is an IAEA member and an NPT signatory and its nuclear activities are constantly monitored."

According to Indian foreign ministry notes, Larijani made a specific reference to India at the end of the interview.

"Americans say (to Iran) 'we doubt and we suspect your intentions, you may in future develop nuclear weapons,' while IAEA reports say that Iran is 10 years away from being capable of developing weapons," Larijani reportedly said.

"But compare that to India, it does have nuclear weapons but they have extensive relations in the nuclear field. This dual standard is detrimental to international security."