by Carol Giacomo / Reuters –
UNITED NATIONS (September 30, 2003) – With the world pressing Iran and North Korea to give up nuclear programs, Arab states Monday criticized the West for allowing Israel to remain outside global nonproliferation regimes.
Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons capability but has not signed on to major agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear arms.
“What surprises us is that at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency is intensifying its efforts and monitoring (NPT) members’ countries … we see that it continues to ignore the rejection of Israel in not joining the treaty,” Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly. “This constitutes a serious threat to the security and stability of the whole region,” he said.
Under US pressure, the IAEA — the UN nuclear watchdog — has given Iran until October 31 to prove Teheran’s claim that it has no intention of developing nuclear arms and it merely hopes to use nuclear technology to produce electricity.
Meanwhile, the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan have been working to engage Pyongyang in a negotiating process aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons programs.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said, “It is unacceptable that Israel’s possession of such weapons should remain a reality that some prefer to ignore or prevent the international community … from facing it squarely and frankly.”
Syria, accused by the United States of developing chemical and biological arms, took aim at both Washington and Israel.
Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara noted that “a lot has been said lately about the dangers of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by countries that already have different types of such weapons. Some have even waged war under the pretext of eliminating these weapons,” he said in an apparent reference to the United States and its war to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Shara called it “regrettable … that some quarters selectively choose to level their false accusations at some Arab and Islamic states but not at others, while simultaneously ignoring the Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.”
The Arab ministers repeated their support for making the Middle East region free from all weapons of mass destruction.
Israel maintains an ambiguity about its weapons programs, but Joe Circincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has written that the Jewish state is believed to have between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons, a stockpile of chemical weapons, and an active biological arms program.
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