Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Arab Nations Protest IAEA Nuclear Aid To Israel

Arab nations have protested over Israel's first hint of a nuclear arsenal to the U.N. atomic watchdog, saying this flouts international commitments to a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East, diplomats said.

An Arab statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors this week faulted the IAEA's provision of aid for nuclear energy in Israel even though the country had never joined a treaty banning development of atom bombs.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised a stir in December when he implied Israel had nuclear arms, seemingly straying from a longtime policy of "strategic ambiguity" meant to deter potential Arab and Islamic foes, including Iran.

Olmert's remark "represents a new confirmation of international and Arab suspicions about Israel's military nuclear capabilities," said the declaration by 15 Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, obtained by Reuters. ...

The Arab statement urged the IAEA to reconsider its nuclear aid projects in the Jewish state as long as it did not join the NPT and subject its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspections.

The IAEA's secretariat has frozen many such projects in Iran, an NPT member, to uphold U.N. sanctions slapped on Tehran prompted by suspicions it may be trying to secretly build atom bombs, and its stonewalling of IAEA investigations.

Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal -- around 200 bombs. Some Israeli and U.S. officials have mooted possible military action against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to curb its nuclear activity.

Iran insists its nuclear fuel program is for civilian electricity only. It has often complained of being punished while Israel, its arch-foe, has faced no pressure over its presumed nuclear arsenal and shunning of the NPT.


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