Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has appealed to the United Nations Security Council to put Israel's nuclear program under international supervision and set a timeframe for a nuclear-free Middle East.

In a letter to the 15-member council last week, Aboul Gheit highlighted that Israel has not signed onto the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) adding: "Israel's nuclear capabilities cannot evade world attention."

An Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Aboul Gheit had sent the letter to all 15 members, rather than the five permanent powers, in order to give other states a chance to voice their stance on the issue.

For the first time in 18 years, Israel, the United States and the Western powers last week were unsuccessful at preventing passage of a resolution calling on Israel to sign the NPT.

The resolution, passed at the end of the annual general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Thursday, also demands that Israel open its nuclear reactor in Dimona to international inspectors. Advertisement

The resolution was passed by a majority of 49 countries, among them the members of the Arab League and the bloc of developing nations; against 45 Western countries, including the European Union and the United States, and 16 abstentions.

The non-binding resolution mentions "Israeli nuclear capabilities."

In the past, the United States and other Western countries were able to persuade the developing countries not to join the resolution, thus thwarting its passage.

Another resolution, passed with the agreement of Israel and Egypt, calls for nuclear disarmament in the Middle East, and for dialogue among all nations in the region to this end.