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Iranian Participation Sought for WMD-Free Middle East Conference

Iran has been formally asked to participate in this year's planned global meeting on establishing the Middle East as a WMD-free zone, the Fars News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Finnish diplomat and conference "facilitator" Jaakko Laajava made the request on Monday during a meeting in Tehran with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Akhoundzadeh.

The 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference ended with a call for organizing a meeting this year that would promote creating a prohibition on unconventional weapons in the Middle East. The likelihood of the conference occurring remains in question, but reports indicate it could be set for December in Helsinki, Finland.

A major question has been whether longtime foes Iran and Israel would attend. Laajava noted Tehran's prominence in the Middle East in making the pitch for Iranian attendance, Fars reported.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed nation in the region. Tel Aviv, Washington and other capitals suspect Iran of seeking a nuclear-weapon capability, a claim denied by the Persian Gulf power. Syria is also thought to hold a significant stockpile of chemical warfare agents and possibly to operate a biological weapons program.


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