'Israel will have presence at summit'

Obama aide: Large delegation from J'lem to fly to DC, despite PM's cancellation.

April 9, 2010 02:19
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu looking over shoulder 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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US President Barack Obama's national security adviser said that Israel will still have a "robust" delegation at a nuclear security summit in Washington next week, even after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu abruptly decided not to attend.

Netanyahu had said he would be at the conference to underline the danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons. Officials in his office said Netanyahu reversed himself because some nations planned to use the conference to target Israel over its barely concealed nuclear weapons program.

Speaking to reporters traveling with Obama, national security adviser James Jones said Israel did not want to be a catalyst for changing the theme of the summit.

Netanyahu called off his trip to Washington next week to attend a conference on the spread of nuclear weapons, officials in his office said Thursday night, fearing Israel would be singled out over its own nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu had said he would attend the conference to underline the dangers of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons, but suddenly called off the trip less than two days after he announced he would take part.

Army Radio reported that US sources informed Israel that a group of participating Arab countries led by Turkey and Egypt plan to use the summit to demand that Israel sign the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and allow its alleged nuclear capabilities to be placed under international inspection.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer confirmed that Israel had informed the US that Netanyahu would be staying home, sending his deputy, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, instead.

Previously, Jerusalem received assurances from the US administration that it would not let the issue take over the conference, which is to focus on keeping nuclear capabilities out of the hands of terrorists, government sources said.

More than 40 world leaders will attend the conference on Monday and Tuesday.

Before the announcement, Netanyahu characterized as a “very serious issue” the danger that “nuclear weapons, even crude nuclear weapons, could find their way into the hands of terrorists.” This, he said, would have “dire consequences” for all humanity.

A government source told Army Radio: "Israel participates in the effort to prevent nuclear technology reaching the hands of terrorists, and on this basis we agreed to take part in the summit. But reports surfacing in the last 24 hours indicated the intention of various states to assail Israel regarding the NPT. In summits of this nature, Israel is usually represented on the ministerial and professional levels. The prime minister has accordingly decided that Meridor will head the delegation."

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