Sat, Sep 21, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Arabs target Israel at UN meet

NUCLEAR ARSENAL:Arab states say Israel’s assumed atomic arsenal is a threat to peace, while Israel and the US point to Iran’s nuclear activity as a proliferation risk

Reuters, VIENNA

Arab states will push ahead with a bid to single out Israel for criticism over its assumed atomic arsenal at this week’s UN nuclear agency meeting, despite Western pressure to refrain, a senior representative said yesterday.

Frustrated over the indefinite postponement last year of an international conference on banning atomic arms in the region, Arab states have proposed a non-binding resolution expressing concern about “Israeli nuclear capabilities.”

If adopted at the annual member state gathering of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it would call on Israel to join a global anti-nuclear weapons treaty and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA monitoring. Diplomats expect a close vote.

The US said this week the move would hurt broader diplomatic efforts toward creating a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Israel said it would deal a “serious blow” to any attempt to hold regional security talks.

However, Ambassador Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, head of the Arab League group at the IAEA, made clear the text would not be withdrawn before a vote expected later yesterday.

The world has to know that Israel is not playing a constructive role, that Israel has a [nuclear] capability,” Ramzy said.

Israel is widely believed to possess the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, drawing frequent Arab and Iranian condemnation.

It has never acknowledged having atomic weapons.

US and Israeli officials — who see Iran’s atomic activity as the main proliferation threat — have said a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East could not be a reality until there was broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran curbed its program.

Israel and the US accuse Iran of covertly seeking a nuclear arms capability, something Tehran denies.

Iran this week said Israel’s nuclear activities “seriously threaten regional peace and security.”

World powers agreed in 2010 to an Egyptian plan for an international meeting to lay the groundwork for creating a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. However, the US, one of the big powers to co-sponsor the meeting, said late last year it would not take place as planned in December last year and did not suggest a new date.

Arab diplomats said they refrained from putting forward the resolution on Israel at the IAEA meetings in 2011 and last year to boost the chances of the Middle East conference, but it had no effect.

“We have engaged seriously and constructively in the preparations [for the conference]. The Israelis have been playing for time, delaying, we have never seen enough seriousness on their part,” Ramzy said.

Israel’s atomic energy chief, Shaul Chorev, told this week’s IAEA meeting that Arab states were using it as a platform for “repeatedly bashing” his country. The Arab move only deepens “existing distrust” among the region’s countries, he said.

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