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Iran Calls For New Body To Oversee Nuclear Disarmament

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has opened a sparsely attended two-day nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran with a call for a new global body to oversee the process.

He told attendees in the Iranian capital that "an independent international group which plans and oversees nuclear disarmament and prevents proliferation should be set up."

Earlier, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a written message to participants that "we consider the use of nuclear arms as haram," or forbidden under Islam, according to a report by Iranian state broadcaster Press TV.

Khamenei called the United States the "world's one and only nuclear criminal" for its use of atomic weapons in World War II. He also stressed the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons and suggested some countries maintain nuclear arsenal to bully the international community.

International Pressure On Iran

The nuclear disarmament conference is attended by representatives of 12 countries. Delegates include the foreign ministers of Turkmenistan and Armenia and the deputy foreign minister of Russia.

Representatives from Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq backed Iran's nuclear program at the conference, saying Tehran has peaceful aims.

Speaking to other delegates Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his country "reject[s] any threat against Iran and insist[s] on Iran's rights to use peaceful nuclear energy."

Lebanon's Ali al-Shami said there is a more urgent need to strip Israel of its nuclear arsenal.

Iran is currently locked in a dispute with the international community, which has imposed three rounds of sanctions to deter Tehran from pursuing sensitive nuclear activities and coming clean on its atomic program.

Western governments have repeatedly accused Iran's leadership of seeking nuclear weapons or a nuclear bomb-making capability.

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has repeatedly warned of Iranian obfuscation over its nuclear moves.

Iranian officials respond that their nuclear ambitions remain dedicated solely to the peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy.

Ahmadinejad dismissed a recent nuclear security summit organized by U.S. President Barack Obama and attended by the leaders of some 47 states as an attempt to "humiliate human beings."

compiled from RFE/RL and agency reports