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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran is campaigning for a key position on a U.N. General Assembly committee that deals with disarmament and international security amid strong criticism from Israel and others who accuse Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran is competing against Kuwait to be the rapporteur of the U.N. General Assembly's First Committee for its 68th session, which begins in October, U.N. diplomats said. The rapporteur reports on the proceedings of the 193-member committee.
A spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission confirmed the country's bid on Tuesday. Asked why Tehran was interested in the position, he said: "It's a normal routine by a member state."
The First Committee considers all disarmament and international security matters, cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security, as well as principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments.
Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is for generating electricity and other peaceful purposes. Iran says U.N. sanctions imposed over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs are illegal and refuses to comply with them.
"Allowing Iran to be on the U.N. committee dealing with nuclear disarmament and weapons proliferation is like inviting Assad, the Syrian dictator responsible for the death of 100,000 of his own people, to be the head of the population census bureau," Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said in a statement. Israel is widely believed to possess the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.
Earlier this month Iran withdrew its candidacy for the U.N. Human Rights Council without explanation. Tehran's bid for a spot on the 47-nation Geneva-based human rights body was sharply criticized by the United States and Israel.
Syria is still in the race for a seat on the Human Rights Council amid criticism by Western states. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and rebels are locked in a civil war that started more than two years ago.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)