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Iran to host nuclear disarmament conference

Ahmadinejad Nuclear Goggles

FILE: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad surveys a science exhibition in Tehran on Feb. 7, 2010. (AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran said Sunday it will host a nuclear disarmament conference later this month, part of Tehran's efforts to show it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, was quoted by state television as saying the two-day meeting — dubbed "Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For No One" — will start April 17, just days after a U.S.-hosted summit on nuclear security.

"Iran, as a country supporting global disarmament, invites the world to disarm and prevent proliferation," Jalili said.

Jalili also said that China, which has resisted U.S.-led efforts to impose new U.N. sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program, would attend the meeting in Tehran.

However, a duty officer at the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Sunday that Beijing had received an invitation to the conference, but added that no decision had been made yet on whether to attend. The duty officer declined to give his name.

Chinese President Hu Jintao will attend the Washington conference.

It was not immediately clear which countries would attend the meeting in Tehran, but Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said Sunday the Iranian initiative has "been widely welcomed by all countries."

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity, not bomb.

President Barack Obama said Thursday that six world powers dealing with Iran's nuclear program will develop a package of serious new punitive measures in the coming weeks over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

China has not confirmed U.S. reports that it has dropped its opposition to possible new U.N. sanctions against Iran. China has veto power in the U.N. Security Council and its support would be key to passing a resolution against Iran.

Jalili was in China this week in the hopes of winning assurances from Beijing that it will oppose sanctions against Iran.

China depends on oil- and gas-rich Iran for 11 percent of its energy needs and last year became Tehran's biggest trading partner, according to Iranian figures.

China traditionally opposes sanctions. Although it went along with three earlier U.N. sanctions resolutions against Iran, it has been a vocal opponent of a fourth round, insisting that further negotiations with Tehran were needed.