Iran's foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi
Iran's foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi Reuters

As tensions between Iran and the West continue to escalate, an Iranian official claimed that Tehran was the first regional power to call for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Jaakko Laajava, the Finnish undersecretary of state for foreign and security policy, that the Islamic republic was the first to propose the establishment of such a zone.

The two politicians met in the Iranian capital ahead of a conference about nuclear weapons, which Finland will host.

Salehi also told Laajava that while Iran had shown commitment toward this goal, Israel had failed to do the same, the Tehran Times reported.

Israel is the only country in the region that possesses nuclear weapons. Salehi said Tel Aviv's lack of commitment should be one of the key points highlighted by the conference.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which came into force in 1970, holds a review meeting every five years and its 2010 meeting passed a resolution for a UN-sponsored conference to be held in 2012.

The conference aims to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. The UN has called for all states in the region to attend.

Five nuclear-free zones have already been established throughout the world: Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Africa.