US threat hangs over conference, nuclear-armed Israel upbeat

US threatened to sabotage anti-nuclear weapons conference if any word touches Israel in a region that regional states dream of nuclear-weapon-free zone.

US threat hangs over conference, nuclear-armed Israel upbeat

US threatened to sabotage anti-nuclear weapons conference if any word touches Israel in a region that regional states dream of nuclear-weapon-free zone.

The backing comes after President Barack Obama signed into law the toughest ever US sanctions on Iran, which he said would strike at Tehran's capacity to finance its nuclear program.

Obama delivered a threat in a statement about his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he gave Israel a veiled, but public assurance to continue cover-up over its nuclear weapons.

"The President emphasized that the conference will only take place if all countries feel confident that they can attend, and that any efforts to single out Israel will make the prospects of convening such a conference unlikely," the statement said.

Obama also agreed to work with Israel to oppose any efforts to underline Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in September.

After a decade of deadlock, the Non-Proliferation Treaty's 189 nations proposed new steps in May towards nuclear disarmament and making the Middle East free of atomic weapons.

Diplomats at an NPT review conference approved by consensus a 28-page final document that for the first time laid out action plans on disarmament, non-proliferation and promoting peaceful atomic energy.

The wording on the Middle East called for holding a conference in 2012 "to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment¨ of such a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

The NPT review conference called on Israel to join the treaty, which would oblige the Jewish state to do away with its nuclear weapons.

But, Israel, which opposes creating a nuclear free zone, has at least between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, according to most experts.

"No sign"

After his Oval Office talks, Obama told reporters that he had reiterated to Netanyahu that there was no change in US policy on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

"We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are leveled against us -- against it, that Israel has unique security requirements.

"It's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that's why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security.

"And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests."

Israel has recently refused international calls to sign NPT and open its facilities for IAEA perusal.

"Obama's retreat"

An Israeli deputy prime minister saw Obama's "recognition" of Israel's "unique security requirements".

But, the Obama administration in May had backed an Egyptian initiative for talks in 2012 on a Middle East free of weapons of mass-destruction. Nuclear-armed Israel had previously avoided such scrutiny.

Dan Meridor, Netanyahu's deputy prime minister in charge of nuclear affairs, said Obama's endorsement was not new but that its public expression -- two months after Washington supported Egypt's proposal at a review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- was significant.

"Why repeat this publicly? Because between then and now there was the NPT conference that may have created the impression that there is a change in the American view," Meridor told Reuters.

A meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna is in September as well as at the Egyptian-proposed regional conference in 2012.

"I think that this entire presentation gives a clear picture of the understanding between Israel and the United States in this matter, and sets the record straight," Meridor said.

"Nuclear cooperation"

In a separate development Wednesday, Army Radio's diplomatic correspondent reported, Israeli officials said the United States had offered to help Israel produce atomic energy despite Israel's refusal to sign the NPT, which is designed to stop countries using civilian programs as cover for building nuclear bombs.

Meridor declined to comment on the report, as did the U.S. embassy.

Meridor also rejected comparisons of Israel to NPT-signatory Iran. Israel often threatens the Islamic republic with an attack over nuclear programme.

Turkey often calls for "fair" stance from global powers over nuclear activities in the region and slams what it calls "double standards".


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Temmuz 2010, 13:29

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