Israel sees ‘positive’ Arab move at IAEA meeting

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Israel welcomed as a “positive move” on Friday a decision by Arab states not to single out the Jewish state with a resolution condemning its assumed nuclear arsenal at a meeting of the U.N. atomic agency.
Arab delegations described this as a “goodwill” gesture ahead of talks later this year on efforts to free the world of nuclear weapons and an Egyptian-proposed conference in 2012 on creating a zone without such arms in the Middle East. They said they would not submit a text entitled “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” for a vote at the annual member state gathering of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as they had in 2009 and 2010.
It was a rare conciliatory exchange during an otherwise heated plenary debate of the 151-member Vienna-based agency that otherwise once again highlighted deep Israeli-Arab divisions. Israel is widely believed to harbour the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, drawing frequent Arab and Iranian condemnation. The Jewish state is the only Middle East country outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Israel and the United States regard Iran — and to a lesser extent Syria — as the region’s main proliferation threats, accusing Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear arms capability in secret.
At the IAEA’s annual meetings in the previous two years, Arab states put forward a non-binding but symbolically important draft resolution that called on Israel to join the NPT and place all its atomic sites under agency supervision. It was approved in 2009 and then re-submitted last year to keep up the pressure on Israel. But it was defeated the second time around after intense lobbying by the United States, which argued that zeroing in on Israel would undermine wider efforts to ban nuclear weapons in the volatile Middle East.
In a surprise move, Arab countries decided last week not to push ahead with the text again this year, saying this was to give a better chance for the planned Nov. 21-22 discussions and the 2012 meeting to succeed.
Hosted by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, the forum in two months’ time will focus on the experience of other regions in the world that have banned weapons of mass destruction.
NEW BEGINNING?: In a statement read by Lebanon’s envoy, the Arab group said it had decided not to submit the Israeli resolution this year “for the sake of giving yet another final chance to ongoing international efforts (towards creating a Middle East free of nuclear weapons) as well as a goodwill gesture from us.”