TEHRAN (AFP/Reuters) - Sanctions-hit Iran on Tuesday called for the destruction of all atomic weapons in the world after North Korea announced that it had staged its most powerful nuclear test yet.

“We need to come to the point where no country has any nuclear weapons and at the same time all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms need to be destroyed,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said when asked for a response to Pyongyang’s claim to have detonated a “miniaturised” device. “At the same all countries should have the right to make use of nuclear activities for peaceful purposes,” Mehmanparast said at his weekly press briefing.

Meanwhile, Tehran acknowledged on Tuesday that it was converting some of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, a move that could help to prevent a dispute with the West over its nuclear programme hitting a crisis in mid-2013.

Mehmanparast was asked at a weekly news conference about a Reuters report that Iran has converted small amounts of its 20-per cent enriched uranium into reactor fuel.

“This work is being done and all its reports have been sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a complete manner,” he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. It was Iran’s first acknowledgment that it had apparently resumed converting into fuel small amounts of uranium enriched to a concentration of 20 per cent fissile material.

A US official sought to reassure Israel this week on the determination of President Barack Obama, due to visit the region shortly, to curb Iran’s nuclear programme, according to an Israeli official who declined to be named.

Rose Gottemoeller, acting US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, “reiterated the Americans’ commitment to preventing a nuclear Iran, and their worries about regional proliferation, were Iran to go nuclear”, said the official, who met Gottemoeller.

Separately, officials from the IAEA are due to hold talks in Tehran on Wednesday in the hope of restarting their long-stalled inquiry into Iran’s nuclear programme.

The UN agency, whose mission is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, has been trying for a year to negotiate a so-called structured approach with Iran that would give its inspectors access to sites, officials and documents.

Iran on Tuesday scorned as a “laughing matter” comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Tehran is moving closer to making a nuclear bomb.

“The claim of the Zionist regime, is a laughing matter,” Mehmanparast said.

He added that the “Zionist regime is a great violator and an illegitimate regime” that had “illegally stockpiled nuclear warheads.”

“They threaten to use these nuclear warheads against other countries,” he said, adding that Israel was the “biggest obstacle” to the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East.

Netanyahu said on Monday that Iran was now closer to crossing the “red line” after which it would be able to build a nuclear weapon, but had not yet reached that stage. He also asked for “stronger pressure and harsher sanctions” on Iran to prevent it from crossing the line.

Netanyahu has publicly aired his differences with President Barack Obama who favours diplomacy and international sanctions against Iran to rein in its atomic programme.

He also has criticised Washington for failing to set its own “red lines” that would trigger military action against Iran, whose leaders have repeatedly called for the disappearance of the Jewish state.