Arab States Demand Israeli Nuclear Transparency

The United States and other Israeli partner states should press Jerusalem to permit U.N. scrutiny of its nuclear activities, the 22-nation Arab League told the powers in a letter last week (see GSN, July 8).

(Aug. 16) – Arab League head Amr Moussa, shown in 2009, last week called for greater international pressure on Israel to allow U.N. audits of its nuclear program (Mario Tama/Getty Images).

The Aug. 8 letter, signed by Arab League head Amr Moussa, calls on world powers to endorse a draft resolution noting “concern” over Israeli nuclear activities and pressing the nation to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and allow International Atomic Energy Agency audits, the Associated Press reported. The Arab countries are expected to present the proposed resolution, titled “Israeli nuclear capabilities,” at next month’s IAEA General Conference meeting.

The letter was submitted to top diplomatic officials in China, France, Russia the United Kingdom and the United States, said diplomats affiliated with the U.N. nuclear watchdog. An attached document requests that the Belgian Embassy in Egypt forward the letter to Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere, current president of the European Union.

U.S. President Barack Obama warned in July that efforts to place unique pressure on Israel over its presumed nuclear arsenal could scuttle plans for a meeting on establishing a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s 189 member nations agreed in May to schedule a 2012 conference aimed at creating such an area (see GSN, June 1).

Israel is the only Middle Eastern state believed to hold nuclear weapons, though it refuses to confirm or deny the existence of its atomic stockpile. Jerusalem has linked willingness to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or to consider a nuclear weapon-free zone to success in the Middle East peace process.

Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month indicated they would “work together to oppose efforts to single out Israel” at next month’s IAEA meeting. “Any efforts to single out Israel will make the prospects of convening [a regional nuclear weapon-free] zone conference unlikely,” the leaders added in a statement.

The Arab League, though, contended it does not seek to single out Jerusalem.

“Singling out a state assumes that there are a number of states in the same position and only one state was singled out,” the organization’s letter states. “The fact is that all the states in the region have acceded to the NPT except Israel.”

The European Union and the United States are expected to told talks with potentially neutral nations in a bid to bolster support for Israel at the IAEA General Conference, according to three diplomats representing agency member states. Last year, the 150-nation body by a four-vote margin endorsed a resolution chiding Israel over its nuclear work.

The dispute over Israel’s atomic activities could undermine international efforts to pressure Iran over its own nuclear work, according to AP. Washington and allied governments suspect Iran of seeking a nuclear-weapon capability, despite frequent denials by Tehran (see related GSN story, today).

In addition, Syria is believed to have worked on a nuclear reactor at a facility destroyed in a 2007 Israeli airstrike. Damascus has maintained that the site housed no atomic operations (see GSN, Aug. 4; George Jahn, Associated Press/Google News, Aug. 15).

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