Israel refuses UN call for nuclear-free region

UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano is asking IAEA member states for ideas on how to persuade Israel to sign up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Israel refuses UN call for nuclear-free region

Israel has no plan to review its nuclear policies, a government official said on Friday, after the international call that's been mounting for it to join the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Efforts to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone have received new attention at a U.N. conference in New York currently reviewing the treaty. Arab states are seeking to press Israel to confirm it possesses the Middle East's only nuclear warheads.

The world's five recognized nuclear-weapons powers — the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China — reaffirmed the goal of a nuclear-free Middle East.

Arab countries have long complained of a double standard when the West asks them to stay nuclear-free while turning a blind eye to Israel's program.

Israel also often threatens Iran an attack over its nuclear sites.

The declaration followed campaigning by Egypt to focus attention on non-signatory Israel during this month's nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference.

Egypt, which heads a powerful bloc of non-aligned developing nations, has circulated a proposal to the NPT's 189 signatories calling for a conference by next year on ridding the Middle East of nuclear weapons, with all regional countries taking part.

"Ideas for Israel to sign NPT"

The United States and Russia, with the support of Britain, France and China, have been negotiating with Egypt to come up with an acceptable compromise proposal, Western diplomats say.

"There is nothing new here, and no reason for a change of direction on our part," a senior Israeli official told Reuters.

But the Israeli official said the administration's attitude on this matter was so far "identical" to the line taken by its predecessors.

"We don't really like this matter, but is there anything to fear, really? I don't think so," Israel Michaeli of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission said in a radio interview on Monday, as the month-long conference opened in New York.

"Our complaint is that people make this comparison between Iran and Israel, when there is absolutely nothing to connect the two," he told Israel's Army Radio.

"Israel did not join the pact, did not undertake its obligations. To a degree it paid a price for this, but it has certainly never cheated or defrauded anyone."

UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano is asking IAEA member states for ideas on how to persuade Israel to sign up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

At the IAEA's last general conference in September 2009, member countries passed a resolution entitled "Israeli nuclear capabilities" which called on the Jewish state "to accede to the NPT and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards."

It urged the IAEA's director general "to work with the concerned states towards achieving that end".

And it requested the director general "to report on the implementation of this resolution" to the agency's board of governors and the upcoming general conference in September.

However, most experts estimate that Israel has at least between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, largely based on information leaked to the Sunday Times newspaper in the 1980s by Mordechai Vanunu, a former worker at the country's Dimona nuclear reactor.

Israel, which has initiated several wars in the region in its 60-year history, has not denied having nuclear weapons, but has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and open its facilities for IAEA perusal.


Agencies

Last Mod: 07 Mayıs 2010, 17:18
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