Obama slams NPT's Israel focus

Israel calls agreement “deeply flawed and hypocritical.”

barack obama 311 (photo credit: associated press)
barack obama 311
(photo credit: associated press)
Israel has denounced an agreement on Friday by the 189 member nations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to move toward banning nuclear arms from the Middle East, calling it “deeply flawed and hypocritical.”
US President Barack Obama also criticized the singling out of Israel in the final document.
“We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel’s national security,” he said.
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The NPT states agreed at the end of a monthlong meeting in New York to call a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons. All states in the region would be invited to the conference, which Arab countries – led by Egypt – hope will pressure Israel to give up on its policy of nuclear ambiguity and its undeclared arsenal.
The body urged Israel to sign the NPT and to allow inspection of its nuclear sites.
It also adopted a detailed plan of steps toward nuclear disarmament, including a proposal to move toward banning atomic weapons from the region.
The Israeli government on Saturday denounced the NPT resolution, saying it had targeted Israel rather than Iran.
In a statement, a government spokesman complained that Israel had been singled out while “the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned.”
He said the resolution ignored the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world, while focusing on Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation.
“The real problem with weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East does not relate to Israel but to those countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and brazenly violated it – Iraq under Saddam [Hussein], Libya, Syria and Iran,” the spokesman said. “That is why the resolution adopted by the NPT Review Conference not only fails to advance regional security but actually sets it back. As a nonsignatory state of the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this Conference, which has no authority over Israel. Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to discuss the resolution with Obama during his visit to Washington on Tuesday.
Obama: Document '
includes balanced and practical steps'Obama on Saturday welcomed what he termed the “balanced” nuclear nonproliferation accord reached a day earlier, but at the same time criticized the singling out of Israel in the document.
Obama said the document “includes balanced and practical steps that will advance nonproliferation, nuclear disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which are critical pillars of the global nonproliferation regime.”
He said that although the US had long supported a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, its view was “that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations are essential precursors for its establishment.”
Although the US joined the 188 other member nations of the NPT in giving a green light to a conference in 2012 “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction,” senior US officials appeared to backtrack afterwards, setting several conditions for the talks to go ahead.
Taking the toughest line, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said in a statement on Friday night that the US had “serious reservations” about the 2012 conference and believed Mideast peace and full compliance by all countries in the region with their arms control and nonproliferation obligations were “essential precursors” of a WMD-free zone.
The compliance demand appeared to be aimed at Iran.
Jones also said the US “deplores” the singling out of Israel, which he said put prospects for the 2012 conference “in doubt.” As a co-sponsor of the conference, Jones said Washington would ensure that it takes place only “if and when all countries feel confident that they can attend.”
The Arab proposal for a WMD-free zone, aimed at pressuring Israel to give up its undeclared arsenal, was endorsed by the 1995 NPT conference but never acted upon.
At this month’s NPT review, a conference to begin talks on a nuclear-free Mideast was considered by many delegates as “the make-or-break issue,” and agreement on the 2012 meeting was widely welcomed after the 28-page final declaration was approved by consensus.
But the US reaction raised questions about whether countries in the Middle East would attend a nuclear conference in two years.
Several delegates suggested that earlier comments by US Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher and Obama’s coordinator for weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, warning about the difficulties of holding a conference and persuading Israel to attend, may have been sparked by Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to the White House.
Egypt’s UN Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, speaking for the 118-nation Nonaligned Movement, said that during the negotiations there was “a little bit of disagreement” on mentioning Israel.
But he said NAM members thought that since the document issued at the end of the 2000 NPT review conference mentioned the need for Israel to join the treaty and subject its nuclear capabilities to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, there was “no going back on that commitment” and Israel had to be mentioned in the 2010 document as well.
A Mideast conference on nuclear issues would put Israel and Iran at the same table. Abdelaziz told reporters the two countries already sat down at the same table at a meeting in Cairo last December.
“So there is nothing that could prevent any two adversaries to sit at the table and negotiate, and we hope that this is the spirit that everybody is going to be doing,” he said.
Iran had loomed as a potential spoiler that would block consensus at this conference, and Iran and Syria dissented loudly on various points in the final hours, but no objections were raised in the concluding session.
Facing new UN sanctions because of its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and enter negotiations on its nuclear program, the Iranians had sought to turn the spotlight instead on the big nuclear powers, demanding the final document call for speedier disarmament moves.
Iran’s chief delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh lamented that the deadline of 2025 sought by NAM for complete disarmament was not included in the final document. Nonetheless, Soltanieh called “the limited measures” in the agreement “a step forward.”
While Israel was named, the final document did not single Iran out as a member nation found to be in noncompliance with UN nuclear safeguards agreements.
Jones, the US national security adviser, said the failure of the resolution to mention Iran, “which poses the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation in the region and to the integrity of the NPT, is also deplorable.”
According to the final document, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon andthe co-sponsors of the 1995 Mideast resolution – the US, Russia andBritain – will now appoint a “facilitator” to conduct consultations inpreparation for the 2012 conference.
Jones said the United States “will insist that the conference operateonly by consensus by the regional countries” and that any furtherdiscussions or actions also be decided on this basis.
Britain’s chief negotiator, Ambassador John Duncan, said Friday’sdecision was the start of a process and dialogue on a WMD-free zone inthe Middle East.
“So it would be surprising if Israel was able to agree today to come tothe proposed conference before that dialogue has taken place,” he said.“But the clear goal of this decision is to have all the countries ofthe region involved.”
Under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty, nations without nuclearweapons committed not to acquire them; those with them committed tomove toward their elimination; and all endorsed everyone’s right todevelop peaceful nuclear energy.
The last NPT conference, in 2005, failed to adopt a consensus declaration.