Egypt Urges NPT Meet to Take Tough Line With Israel

NEW YORK - Egypt is demanding that a conference of members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty issue a summary statement urging treaty members to take operative steps to compel Israel to permit international supervision of its nuclear program.

However, it vehemently opposes any mention of Iran's nuclear program in the summary document, sources involved with the conference said. They said Egypt is insisting that the document focus solely on Israel's nuclear program, in order to isolate Israel diplomatically and bar it from scientific ties with other countries in the field of nuclear research.

Egyptian representatives, they added, told other conference delegates recently that "there won't be a summary statement" if it does not include explicit steps against Israel. However, they said, the United States and the European Union are opposed to Egypt's demand to paint Israel as the world's nuclear "bad boy."

The conference, attended by delegates from all 189 countries that have signed the NPT, will conclude a month of deliberations this evening at the United Nations building in New York.

At the last NPT conference, in 2000, Egypt also wanted the summary document to include criticism of Israel. However, the sources said, a sizable number of the conference delegates feel that Egypt has gone too far this year. "Egypt's behavior in the current conference is very problematic," they quoted delegates as saying. "Egypt has tried to block any practical, substantive discussion at the conference."

The conference has been characterized by a number of sharp disputes, and one senior Western diplomat told Haaretz that no consensus has emerged on any issue. "Only on one issue is there unanimous agreement: The conference deliberations have been largely barren, and have done nothing to ensure the treaty's future," he said.

Many conference participants said Egypt's uncompromising stance has played a major role in creating this atmosphere of crisis. "One cannot rule out the possibility that the conference will adjourn tonight without any summary statement," said a diplomatic source in New York. "The NPT will remain alive, but it will continue to weaken at an even faster pace."

UN sources said that some nations, such as Iran, seem to have a vested interest in adjourning without a summary statement. Iran, they explained, believes a divided international community and a weakened treaty will make it harder to force it to suspend or limit its nuclear program.

Analysts also said the U.S. "wouldn't shed a tear" if the conference adjourned without a summary statement, as they have been disappointed by their failure to place the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs at the center of the conference's deliberations.

But an Israeli observer to the conference told Haaretz that, from Israel's perspective, a weakening of the NPT would be undesirable. He added that Israel would look favorably on any summary statement, as long as it was balanced.