The United Nations on Friday urged all sides in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program to tone down "shrill war talk," reacting to this week's clashes at the world body between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"It's obvious that harsh tones and rhetoric are not going to be helpful, that is quite clear," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky when asked about Netanyahu's speech on Thursday to the General Assembly.
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"What is also clear is that Iran needs to prove to the international community that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes," Nesirky said.
Using a cartoonish diagram of a bomb, Netanyahu suggested in his speech that Israel might take military action to prevent Iran from reaching the point where it has enough enriched uranium for a bomb. He indicated that point could come by the spring or summer of 2013.
"Even without a chart, the secretary-general in his quite forceful remarks to the General Assembly on Tuesday made very clear that there does indeed need to be a toning down of the rhetoric from all sides," Nesirky said.
"He referred to the shrill war talk of recent weeks," Nesirky said, referring to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
He also noted that the recent exchange of threats has sparked jitters across global financial markets.
Ban met with Iranian Ahmadinejad on Sunday and warned him of the dangers of incendiary rhetoric. Ahmadinejad disregarded Ban's caution, predicting on Monday that Israel would be "eliminated."
US President Barack Obama followed on Tuesday with a warning to Tehran that it would do what it has to do to prevent Iran from getting an atomic weapon.
Iran's UN mission responded to Netanyahu's speech, saying Tehran was strong enough to defend itself and that it reserved the right to retaliate with full force against any attack.
Iran rejects allegations by Western nations and Israel that it is seeking the capability to produce an atomic weapon. Tehran insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful production of medical isotopes and electricity.
'Nuclear terrorism threat strong'
Meanwhile, IAEA Chief Yukio Amano warned Friday that the threat of nuclear terrorism has not diminished, saying a key risk is that terrorists could detonate a so-called "dirty bomb" to contaminate a major city.
Amano told a high-level meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that a dirty bomb would not be a full-fledged nuclear bomb but it could lead to mass panic and serious economic disruption.
"We must therefore maintain the utmost vigilance in protecting nuclear and other radioactive material and nuclear facilities," he said.
Amano said more than 2,200 incidents have been registered on the International Atomic Energy Agency's "Illicit Trafficking Database" since it was established in 1995.
"Most of these are fairly minor, but some are more serious," he said. "Taken together, they show that much work is needed and that we must never become complacent."
Amano said urgent action is needed to ratify an amendment to the UN Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials which was adopted in 2005 but hasn't entered into force.
The treaty covers only the physical protection of nuclear material in international transport.
The amendment would expand its coverage to include the protection of nuclear material in domestic use, in storage and transport, and the protection of nuclear facilities against acts of sabotage.
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