Syrian FM: Israel must join nuclear treaty

Syria Israel must join

Israel must comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency if the Mideast is to become a region free of weapons of mass destruction, Syria's foreign minister said Monday. Foreign Minister Walid Moallem echoed calls by many Arab nations during the current UN General Assembly session for Israel to comply with the IAEA's demand to submit its nuclear facilities to the agency's safeguard regime and to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The treaty restricts any nuclear program to nonmilitary purposes. Israel has never said it has nuclear weapons, but is universally believed to possess a sizable arsenal of such warheads. The US and its allies consider Iran the region's greatest proliferation threat, fearing that Tehran is trying to achieve the capacity to make nuclear weapons despite its assertion that it is only building a civilian program to generate power. They also say Syria - which, like Iran is under IAEA investigation - ran a clandestine nuclear program, at least until Israeli warplanes destroyed what they describe as a nearly finished plutonium-producing reactor two years ago. Islamic nations, however, insist that Israel is the true danger, saying they fear its nuclear weapons capacity. Earlier this month, the 150-nation IAEA conference adopted a resolution directly criticizing Israel and its atomic program for the first time in 18 years. Iran hailed the vote as a "glorious moment." The result was a setback for Israel, the United States and other backers of the Jewish state. It also reflected building tensions between Israel and its backers and Islamic nations, backed by members of the 120-nation Nonaligned Movement. The meeting adopted a resolution calling for a Mideast free of nuclear weapons in a near-consensus vote, with only Israel voting against. "Syria stresses the need to commit Israel to comply with the resolution adopted by the IAEA ... regarding Israeli nuclear capabilities," Moallem said. Attempts to contact the Israeli mission to the UN for comment were unsuccessful on the holiday of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.