Egypt: Probe Israeli nuke capabilities

gheit nuclea letter isra

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit sent a message to the UN Security Council last week, reiterating his support for non-proliferation and imploring the 15 member countries to investigate Israel's nuclear capabilities, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry revealed Wednesday. Emphasizing that Israel has yet to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Gheit stressed the importance of setting a time frame for a nuclear-free Middle East. Gheit met Tuesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in order to discuss possible avenues for resuming the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Egypt's move comes several days after a 150-nation nuclear conference on Friday passed a resolution directly criticizing Israel and its atomic program for the first time in 18 years. Iran hailed the vote as a "glorious moment." Out of the delegations present at the International Atomic Energy Agency annual meeting last week, 49 voted for the resolution. 45 were against and 16 abstained from endorsing or rejecting the document, which "expresses concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities," and links it to "concern about the threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons for the security and stability of the Middle East." Israeli IAEA ambassador David Danieli denounced the vote as "openly hostile to the state of Israel" and accused Iran and Syria of "creating a diplomatic smoke screen" to cover up their "pursuit of nuclear weapons." But chief Iranian IAEA delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the vote should serve as a warning to Washington and other supporters of the Jewish state. "The US Administration .... has received a message that they should not continue supporting Israel at any price," he told reporters. Since the conference passed a harshly worded anti-Israel resolution in 1991, there has been annual Islamic criticism of Israel's nuclear program and its refusal to join the Nonproliferation Treaty. But - until Friday - the West had lobbied successfully against a vote, arguing they could damage hopes of a Middle East peace through negotiations. While Israel objected to a passage calling on all states in the region to adopt the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it praised Arab willingness to compromise on other language in the document that it opposed. AP contributed to this report