US urges Arab countries to leave Israel off the agenda at IAEA conference 16Sep10 September 17, 2010

Haaretz -  16 September 2010

The United States urged Arab nations on Thursday to withdraw a planned resolution to focus on Israel’s nuclear capabilities at next week’s International Atomic Energy Agency conference. U.S. officials claim that singling out Israel now could jeopardize the progress of the ongoing Middle East peace talks and could harm wider steps toward a Middle East free of such weapons.

Arab IAEA member countries plan to advocate at the upcoming meeting in Vienna for a resolution voicing concern over Israel’s nuclear weapons and promising to step up pressure to get it to join the anti-atomic arms pact.

Earlier on Thursday, the Arab nations accused IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano of producing a “weak and disappointing” report on his efforts to get Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Despite U.S. efforts, Arab nations said in a statement to the IAEA’s governing board that they would urge member states to vote in favor of the non-binding resolution which also calls on Israel to open up all its nuclear sites to agency inspections.

They won narrow backing for a similar resolution at last year’s assembly meeting of the 151-nation IAEA, but the United States has lobbied hard to avoid a repeat of what it calls a divisive measure this year.

The 2009 resolution called on IAEA chief Amano to prepare a report on how to implement its objectives.

In a statement made available to reporters, Arab countries said Amano’s report last month inviting Israel to consider joining the nuclear NPT was “weak and disappointing, devoid of any substance and not up to the typical level of the Agency’s reporting…”

“The report neither contained an assessment [of] the Israeli nuclear capabilities, nor did the Agency try to obtain any information about these capabilities, especially concerning a military dimension…,” it continued.

The United States says that zeroing in on Israel – widely believed to be the region’s only nuclear power, could jeopardize an Egyptian-proposed conference in 2012 to discuss creating a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.

It also says it would send a negative signal to re-launched, U.S.-backed peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

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