BERLIN – A senior International Atomic Energy Agency official warned against a unilateral military strike on Iranian nuclear sites on Monday at a global security conference in Berlin.

Tariq Rauf, head of verification and security policy coordination at the IAEA, told the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe that “the use or threat of force unilaterally to deal with proliferation challenges does not guarantee success. At best, [the result] could be incomplete, and at worst, it could be a driver to proliferation.”

The comments come as speculation continues over potential Israeli or American military action against Iranian nuclear sites, against the backdrop of diplomatic negotiations, economic sanctions and mysterious computer viruses afflicting Iran.

Rauf spent much of his talk discussing his vision of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. A November meeting on prospects for regional nuclear disarmament provided “a faint glimmer of hope... to at least engage in preliminary explorative discussion on a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region,” he said.

Rauf added that all Middle Eastern IAEA members attended, including Israel, which he described as “one key state in the region not party to NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].”

The November conference “saw constructive dialogue... despite the complexity of issues and differences of views,” he said.

Further spelling out his vision, Rauf said goals included ending the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, halting the development and stationing of weapons, and dismantling any nuclear weapons programs.

The IAEA’s talks with Israel and its Arab neighbors “show that there still continues to be a longstanding and fundamental difference of views between Israel on the one hand and the other states of the Middle East region on other hand, with regards to the application of.

IAEA safeguards to all nuclear activities in region,” he continued.

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Arab states have long attempted to exploit their IAEA membership to place diplomatic pressure on Jerusalem over the nuclear issue.

Summarizing his understanding of Israel’s stance, Rauf said, “Israel takes the view that IAEA safeguards, as well as other regional security issues, cannot be addressed in isolation from the creation of stable regional security conditions – and that these issues should be addressed in the framework of a regional security and arms control dialogue.”

The Israeli stance at last year’s meeting won backing from the US, UK and Russia.

Rauf added that the nuclear dialogue “could be resumed in the framework of a multilateral peace process.”

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