VIENNA - Western envoys are urging Arab states not to berate Israel over its assumed nuclear arsenal at the UN atomic agency's annual conference, fearing this could imperil wider efforts for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, diplomats say.
A senior diplomat said Arab countries would criticise Israel but were divided over whether to submit a resolution on the issue to next month's annual General Conference of the United Nations' 154-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).In a surprise move at last year's IAEA gathering, the Arab group refrained from singling out Israel in this way in what was called a "goodwill gesture" ahead of planned talks in 2012 on creating a zone without nuclear arms in the Middle East.
Israel welcomed this as a "positive" move, in a rare conciliatory exchange in an otherwise heated debate that underlined deep Arab-Israeli divisions on nuclear issues.
Diplomats said Arab states had not yet decided whether to propose a non-binding but symbolically important draft text criticizing "Israeli Nuclear Capabilities" at this year's week-long meeting that starts on September 17.
They expressed concern that an Arab move against Israel would discourage the Jewish state from attending the talks due to be held later this year on a nuclear arms-free Middle East.