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Iran to attend Helsinki talks on nuclear-free Middle East

Iran says it will take part in a proposed Middle East nuclear conference to be held in Helsinki next month.

Iran announced Tuesday that it intended to participate in a meeting in Finland aimed at ensuring that the Middle East remains free of nuclear arsenals and weapons of mass destruction.

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made the announcement at a private seminar in Brussels aimed at promoting the Helsinki summit.

The summit is being coordinated by a senior Finnish Foreign Ministry diplomat.

Tehran has been engaged in a protracted stand-off with world powers over allegations that its nuclear programme aims to develop weapons. The country's leadership has repeatedly contended that its nuclear programme is used for peaceful purposes.

The proposed conference aims to discuss banning atomic arms and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East by establishing a legally binding nuclear-weapon-free zone.

Israel is thought to have its own nuclear weapons programme, but has never officially confirmed any nuclear arms capability. The government has not yet indicated whether or not it will attend the conference.

The conference will be convened by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and has the support of Britain, Russia and the United States.