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UN chief issues grim warning on 'suicidal' attacks at Ukraine nuclear plant

One of the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. REUTERS - ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO

Any attack on a nuclear plant is "suicidal", United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday, after missiles once again exploded at a huge atomic power complex in southern Ukraine.

Moscow and Kyiv have blamed each other for the latest strike at the Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe's largest nuclear power site, which has been under Russian control since the early days of the war.

The fighting on Friday at the plant has prompted the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to warn of "the very real risk of a nuclear disaster".

At a press conference in Tokyo, UN chief Guterres condemned such attacks without saying which side was responsible.

"We support the IAEA and their efforts to create the conditions of stabilisation of that plant," he said.

"Any attack on a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing. I hope that those attacks will end, and at the same time I hope that the IAEA will be able to access the plant."

The UN chief's comments followed a visit to Hiroshima over the weekend, where Guterres gave a speech to mark the 77th anniversary of the world's first nuclear bomb attack.

Humanity 'playing with a loaded gun'

In the Japanese city on Saturday, he warned that "humanity is playing with a loaded gun" as crises with the potential for nuclear disaster proliferate worldwide, from Ukraine to the Middle East and the Korean peninsula.

The Portuguese 73-year-old also delivered a stark warning against the horrors of atomic weapons a week ago in New York at a nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference.

"We are witnessing a radicalisation in the geopolitical situation that makes the risk of a nuclear war again something we cannot completely forget," he said.

When asked about China's massive military exercises around Taiwan, sparked by a visit last week to the self-ruled island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Guterres said the UN "abides by a resolution of the General Assembly, the so-called One China policy.

"But we all want that resolution to correspond to a peaceful environment," he said, calling for common sense and restraint to allow for an "extremely important" de-escalation.

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