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Arabs will not criticize Israel at UN nuclear meeting


Arab states will refrain from submitting a resolution criticizing Israel at next week's UN atomic agency general conference but are threatening to do so next year instead, diplomats told AFP Friday.

An "Israeli Nuclear Capabilities" (INC) resolution, despite being only symbolic, caused a storm in 2009 when it was narrowly adopted at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s general conference.

It expressed "concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities" and called on Israel to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allow in IAEA inspectors.

This year, Arab states are refraining in order not to jeopardize a still-to-be-confirmed conference organized by Finland in December on establishing a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East, envoys said.

"We want to give these efforts a chance," one Arab diplomat at IAEA headquarters in Vienna told AFP, echoing other Western and non-Western envoys. "But if things don't work out, then next year will be different."

Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons but has never confirmed it. Unlike Iran, for example, it is not a signatory to the NPT and therefore not subject to IAEA inspections, except at one site.

Israel's nuclear arsenal has long been a point of contention for Iran and Arab states who are quick to point out western double standards on the issue.

Earlier today, US diplomat Robert Wood said Damascus was responsible for allowing IAEA inspectors into the country to probe its alleged nuclear program in spite of the bloody conflict.

Iran remains at odds with the IAEA over access to certain sites the agency suspects are being used for weapons research.

Israel and West accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, insisting its for peaceful purposes.

Russia, Iran's principle backer, maintains that no evidence exists to suggest that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

A two-day forum at the IAEA last November on creating so-called nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) was spurned by Iran but attended by Israel, Syria, 17 other Middle East states, Palestinian representatives and others.

The week-long general conference of the IAEA starts on Monday.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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