(UNITED NATIONS) — Hours before the first significant high level meeting between the U.S. and Iran since the Iranian revolution in 1979, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani urged the destruction of all nuclear weapons.
Rouhani’s statement was closely watched because his country faces severe international embargoes because its nuclear program is suspected of building a nuclear arsenal.
“Any use of nuclear weapons is a violation of the U.N. charter and a crime against humanity,” Rouhani said, speaking at U.N. headquarters in New York.
As head of the Non-Aligned Movement, Rouhani called for a total destruction of nuclear weapons and said “de-targeting, de-alerting or reducing the number of nuclear weapons [is] not [a] substitute for their total elimination.”
The nuclear weapon states must lead the charge to disarm, Rouhani said and he called on Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty “without delay” in a rare, direct reference to the country.
“The world has waited too long to disarm,” Rouhani said. “As long as nuclear weapons exist, the threat of their use exists.”
In his speech, Rouhani laid out the following three pronged plan to promote disarmament. He called for an early commencement of negotiations, in the Conference on Disarmament, on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons for the prohibition of their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and for their destruction. He urged the designation of Sept. 26 as an international day dedicated to eliminating nuclear weapons.
Rouhani also proposed convening a high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament in five years to review progress in this regard.
Rouhani’s speech comes ahead of Thursday’s landmark meeting between U.S. and Iranian officials.
Secretary of State John Kerry will meet face to face with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javid Zarif along with foreign ministers from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the so-called P5+1.
The State Department down-played expectations Thursday, saying that no-one expects a breakthrough from this one meeting, but it will open an opportunity to see if the Iranians are serious about wanting to negotiate.
Asked earlier Thursday what he needed to know from the Iranians to show that they are serious, Kerry responded, “I’ll let you know after they’ve been serious.”
Kerry added, “We’re going to have a good meeting, I’m sure.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN