Arab nations to IAEA: Israel a threat

The Arab resolution demands a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East.

September 21, 2006 19:45
1 minute read.
IAEA 298.88

IAEA 298.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

Arab nations have submitted a resolution at an annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency labeling Israel's nuclear capabilities a threat and are pushing for a vote, diplomats said Thursday. Arab nations at the annual conference of the UN's nuclear monitoring agency regularly threaten to submit such a resolution. In recent years, however, those nations have opted instead to voice their concerns about Israel's nuclear program in a statement from the conference president, which carries much less weight than a resolution. A draft of the resolution, titled "Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat," calls upon Israel to join the Nonproliferation Treaty so that a nuclear weapons free zone can be established in the Middle East. While a resolution from the body would be nonbinding, it would send a strong signal in a region where tensions are already running high after the recent war in Lebanon and the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program. The last time a resolution of this type was submitted at the annual conference was in 1991. At the time, it was also voted on and passed. Israel neither confirms nor denies its nuclear status but is considered to be the only nation in the region with nuclear weapons. The draft resolution was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia have indicated they want to co-sponsor the resolution, an Arab diplomat said. A separate draft resolution that calls on all Middle Eastern nations to accept IAEA safeguards and take steps toward the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone was tabled earlier at the annual meeting, which began Monday. On Wednesday, Gideon Frank, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said Israel would only "be in a position to support" that resolution if the other resolution declaring Israel's program a threat is not acted upon. Israel currently does not accept IAEA controls on its nuclear activities. "We remain committed to a vision of the Middle East developing into a zone free of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as well as ballistic missiles," Frank said in a statement. "Yet, we are also realistic enough to know that in the Middle East, as had been the case in virtually ever other region, such a noble cause cannot be advanced out of context."

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