Amid stepped up efforts from the West to punish his country with more sanctions, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei on Thursday said Tehran had never been after nuclear weapons but it would not give up its right to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
"It is most unfortunate to see that countries possessing the largest nuclear arsenals have no serious and genuine intention of removing these deadly weapons from their military doctrines...," Khamenei, who holds near-absolute power in the country, said addressing the leaders and delegates from over 50 countries participating in the 16th NAM Summit in Tehran.
Without directly naming anyone, he said some of the Western countries which themselves possess nuclear weapons and are "guilty" of this illegal action, "want to monopolise the production of nuclear fuel".
"Surreptitious moves are underway to consolidate a permanent monopoly over production and sale of nuclear fuel in centres carrying an international label but in fact within the control of a few Western countries," he said in what was clearly meant for the US.
"All should be able to employ this wholesome source of energy for various vital uses for the benefit of their country and people, without having to depend on others for exercising this right," Khamenei said on nuclear energy.
He stressed that Iran had never been after nuclear weapons and that it would never give up the right of its people to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Khamenei said Iran considers the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a "great and unforgivable sin" and has even proposed the idea of "Middle East free of nuclear weapons."
"This does not mean forgoing our right to peaceful use of nuclear power and production of nuclear fuel. On the basis of international laws, peaceful use of nuclear energy is a right of every country."