VIENNA - Arab states are expected to refrain from targeting Israel over its assumed nuclear arsenal at the UN atomic agency's annual conference next week so as not to undermine wider efforts for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, diplomats said.

This would be welcomed by Western states, which have been concerned that an Arab move against Israel would discourage the Jewish state from attending talks due to be held this year on banning such weapons of mass destruction in the volatile region.

"It is certainly positive," one Western envoy said.

The diplomats said Arab countries would as usual criticize Israel in the debate but, like last year, not submit a joint resolution on the issue to the Sept. 17-21 General Conference of the UN's 155-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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