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An unlikely anti-nuclear campaigner?

Mark Mardell | 18:45 UK time, Monday, 3 May 2010

President Ahmadinejad of Iran says nuclear weapons are "disgusting and shameful", a danger to the countries that have them.

We have to assume this is an indirect denial that he is on the verge of developing such a weapon. Or perhaps having a kit of parts isn't quite as disgusting.

iran_un226.jpg

Anyway, he revels in tweaking the tail of his reluctant hosts, the United States.

He is the only head of state who has turned up for the first day of this month-long conference on nuclear non-proliferation at the UN in New York.

That in itself is seen by some as barefaced cheek when the West believes his country is trying to make a nuclear weapon.

When the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said he was unable to confirm that all Iranian nuclear material was used in peaceful activities, Mr Ahmadinejad grinned broadly.

His speech - or perhaps I mean lecture - was pure theatre. Studded with pious references, it was a stern warning about the evils of nuclear weapons.

He didn't directly say Iran wasn't developing them, just that they were terrible.

He said that their sole purpose was to annihilate all human beings, that they were "a fire against humanity", their production and possession was a risk to the country that had them and the possession of nukes should be seen, not as a source of pride but as disgusting and shameful.

He glancingly mentioned Israel's supposed stockpile but concentrated most of his wrath on the US, which he identified as the only country that had used nuclear weapons and which remained the main incentive for other countries to develop them.

The Germans, French, British and Americans walked out.

But perhaps many other countries here will have some sympathy with his approach.

He is not alone in seeing the old nuclear powers as an arrogant club who believe they have the right to rule.

Whatever the official position, no-one seriously doubts that Israel has nuclear weapons and many countries feel resentful of the fact that the US and its allies aren't at all bothered by this.

There is real purpose in all this.

As the US presses for sanctions against Iran, President Ahmadinejad has come to stir up charges of hypocrisy and double standards.

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