Iran says China to attend its nuclear disarmament meeting
Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator: 'All countries should demolish their nuclear arsenals.'
Iran said on Sunday China would take part in a nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran later this month, to be held just days after Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to attend a nuclear security summit in Washington.
Iran, embroiled in a deepening nuclear row with the West, says experts and officials from some 60 countries have been invited to the April 17-18 meeting in Tehran, called "Nuclear energy for everyone, nuclear arms for no one."
Iran announced Sunday it will hold an international conference on nuclear disarmament later this month, the official news agency IRNA reported.
The conference is part of efforts by Tehran to show it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
"Iran, as advocate of nuclear disarmament, will hold this conference as a call to all countries to demolish their nuclear arsenals," Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told IRNA.
Iran rejects Western accusations it is seeking to develop nuclear bombs, saying its atomic work is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.
"The Chinese have welcomed the Islamic Republic's initiative and the idea of calling on the world to disarm and will take part in the Tehran conference," chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was quoted as saying by official IRNA news agency.
Jalili, who visited Beijing last week, did not say at what level China would be represented.
China, which buys large amounts of oil from Iran, has for months fended off Western calls to back further UN Security Council sanctions on the Islamic state.
But in moves last week that could ease strained Sino-U.S. ties, China announced Hu would attend the April 12-13 summit in Washington, while its diplomats signalled readiness to join serious talks with Western powers on new sanctions on Iran.
The United States has welcomed China's decision to join negotiations on imposing new sanctions and said Hu's visit to Washington for the multi-nation meeting hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama could set the stage for tougher action on Tehran.
The Washington meeting itself focuses not on reducing nuclear weapon stockpiles worldwide, but on the less controversial issue of "securing" nuclear material to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.
China is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, each wielding the power to veto any resolution and thus block proposed UN sanctions.
Jalili told reporters on Friday, after meeting the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing, that the two sides agreed sanctions had "lost their effectiveness."
Western powers say Tehran is violating international nuclear safeguards and have told it to curtail uranium enrichment work, which could eventually be used to make fissile material for nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear activities are peaceful and legitimate.
Iran's envoy to the UN nuclear agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said "senior officials and ranking experts from various countries" would attend the international disarmament and non-proliferation meeting in Tehran, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
The foreign ministers of Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Oman and Turkmenistan have already confirmed their participation at the two-day conference to commence on April 17 in Tehran. Iran said experts and officials from some 60 countries have been invited.
The conference - dubbed Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For No One - is scheduled to take place days after a U.S.-hosted summit on nuclear security.
Jalili who was in Beijing earlier this week for talks about forthcoming UN-sanctions, said the Chinese had also welcomed the Iranian initiative and will take part on the event. China has resisted imposing new international sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
Iran has been under growing pressure for its controversial atomic program and already faced three resolutions from the UN Security Council until now.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday that new sanctions against Iran could just increase the country's motivation for more technological progress and reiterated that "intimidation of our nation by such threats cannot hinder our progress."