‘North Korea, Iran nuclear plans threaten world stability’

Friday, December 3, 2010

MANAMA - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Friday that North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear aspirations threaten world peace and stability, expressing concern that such programmes could spark arms races.

“We are all concerned about these two countries,” she said, speaking in Bahrain along with her counterpart, Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa.

“It is important to recognise (these concerns are) not directed at the people of either country, it is a concern about decisions made by the leaders of these two countries that puts at risk the peace and stability of two regions of the world,” she added.

Both Clinton and al-Khalifa stressed that they did not object to peaceful nuclear programmes set up to fulfil energy needs.

“What we object to is a pursuit of nuclear weapons that could be used to threaten and intimidate their neighbours and beyond. That is unacceptable, and it is destabilizing, and it will spark arms races in both regions that will make both regions even more dangerous,” Clinton said.

In recent months Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have embarked on an estimated $120 billion weapons upgrade shopping spree, mainly from US manufacturers, and partially as a result of concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme.

Turning to the recent release of State Department cables by the WikiLeaks website, al-Khalifa declined to comment on specific cables which suggested that Bahrain and other Gulf states have urged US military action against Iran to halt its nuclear programme.

He said the documents were property of the US government and that they had been leaked in an illegal manner.

But he added that he saw no conflict between what was mentioned in the document referring to his country and the stated policy of his government.

“We do believe that every country in the Middle East has the right to develop nuclear power programmes for peaceful use,” al-Khalifa said, adding that turning such programmes to serve military purposes was something that the region “could never accept or live with”.

Clinton, who is in Manama to take part in the the IISS Regional Security Summit, or Manama Dialogue, downplayed the importance of the cables, emphasising that the statements were taken out of context and that they did not represent US policy.

“The policy of the United States is made in Washington and the president and I are very clear about the direction we are taking in supporting our partners,” she said.

Clinton also said the US continues to push for the start of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations and dismissed claims about backsliding in human rights and public freedoms in the region during the Obama administration, citing recent Bahraini elections and the creation of an inclusive Iraqi government as examples of progress.

The Manama Dialogue, which opens Friday night, is expected to focus on security issues relating to Iran, Iraq, terrorism threats from Al Qaeda and extremist groups, as well as maritime security.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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