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Israel key to NPT conference on banning nukes

Arab nations finally won agreement from the US and the other nuclear powers to take the first step toward banning nuclear weapons from the Middle East. Now, the next move is Israel's.

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Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, speaking for the 118-nation Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries, said that during the negotiations there was "a little bit of disagreement" on mentioning Israel.

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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, which has called for the destruction of the Jewish state, at the same table. But 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 possible new U.N. 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 that has been found to be in noncompliance with U.N. nuclear safeguards agreements.

Jones, the U.S. 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." Earlier, Tauscher had also criticized Iran for doing "nothing to enhance the international community's confidence in it by its performance in this review conference."

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