TOKYO: Iran, as a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has the right to peaceful use of atomic energy but should not be allowed to have nuclear arms, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit said on Tuesday. Iran made a rare call to Egypt last month over the nuclear issue. The two nations have not had relations for over 25 years and high-level contacts between the two governments are rare, usually limited to international meetings. Speaking during a visit to Japan, Abul-Gheit reiterated Egypt s opposition to nuclear weapons in the Middle East and called for a peaceful solution to the stand-off over Iran s nuclear program. We are opposed to the introduction of nuclear weapons to this part of the world, he told a news conference in Tokyo. Iran is a party to the NPT … The right of each and every member state that is party to the NPT to exploit and have the right of peaceful uses is an inherent right within the NPT agreement, he said. The important thing is that no one should introduce a military nuclear program, whether it is Israel or Iran or anybody else, he added. Abul-Gheit, who met with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Japanese counterpart Taro Aso during his stay, said Egypt hoped the issue would be resolved peacefully. And we hope that this issue, the nuclear file, should be settled … in a manner that would be a peaceful manner and would allow the international community to be sure that there are no military components to this program and at the same time Iran would be satisfied for the rights for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he said. Iran has refused to comply with U.N. demands to halt work on uranium enrichment, saying it is a national right. Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called Abul-Gheit over the nuclear issue. The Egyptian foreign ministry said the two ministers agreed to stay in touch for consultations, directly and through their countries missions in Geneva and New York. Iran says its program is solely for generating electricity but the United States says it suspects that Iran s ultimate aim is to develop nuclear weapons. Relations between Egypt and Iran were severed when Egypt gave refuge to the deposed Shah of Iran who died in Egypt. Over the years the Egyptian government has repeatedly accused Iran of supporting underground Islamist groups.
Also Tuesday, Japan assured Abul-Gheit it would continue aid to the Palestinians after Western countries cut off direct payments due to the election victory of Islamic extremists Hamas. Japan is willing to continue its assistance in order to help realize the co-existence and co-prosperity of Israel and Palestine, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told Abul-Gheit, according to a Japanese foreign ministry official. The European Union and the United States suspended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas, which has supported suicide bombings and rejects Israel s right to exist, assumed office in March. Japan, a key donor to the Palestinians and a major importer of crude oil from the Middle East, has taken a lower profile on the issue. The foreign ministry official said Japan would support the Palestinians via international organizations and would take a wait-and-see approach on whether to extend fresh assistance directly to the Palestinian Authority. Western powers have also said they are seeking ways to get money to ordinary Palestinians, who have been hit hard by the sanctions, without putting cash into the hands of the Hamas-led administration. Abul-Gheit said the January election of Hamas was the Palestinians democratic right. We should not punish, or we should not allow the punishment of Palestinian people, because they made a democratic choice to select their own government, he told a news conference after his talks with Koizumi. Tokyo has provided $840 million to the Palestinians in grants, technical assistance and other aid through international organizations since the launch of the Oslo peace process in 1993. Agencies