Israel Demands Change to IAEA Resolution, Threatens Boycott

Israel has threatened to boycott an international conference on a nuclear free Middle East sponsored by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) if a resolution calling Israel a nuclear threat is not removed from the agenda.

The conference, scheduled for January 2005, will be attended by representatives from several Middle Eastern countries including Iran, as well as non-government organizations and a number of independent experts.

The conference, which has no binding powers and is characterized as an "academic seminar" last met in 1997 and in 1993. IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei discussed Israel's possible participation in the forthcoming conference. He was in Israel a few months ago and met Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the director of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, Gideon Frank.

In a speech to the IAEA's general conference, meeting this week in Vienna, Frank yesterday said Israel would take part in the January conference only if an Arab resolution submitted to the general conference was removed - it refers to Israel's nuclear "capabilities and threats." This draft is submitted yearly by the Arab bloc but has always been removed after pressure from Israel, the U.S. and other countries.

If the resolution is removed, Israel says it will vote for another more general resolution, passed in previous years, which speaks of the IAEA's efforts to extend nuclear monitoring to the Middle East.

Frank also noted in his speech to the Vienna conference, that in principle Israel supports freeing the Middle East not only of nuclear weapons but of all weapons of mass destruction, including ballistic missiles.

Frank said that this situation could be created after political and security conditions were met that would allow for the beginning of negotiations on the issues.

However, he said such conditions did not exist in the Middle East at this time, because some countries in the region did not recognize Israel's right to exist and even called for its destruction and supported terror groups.

In his comments at the conference, Frank said that Israel has supported various initiatives, including efforts by the IAEA to increase monitoring of nuclear materials and reduce the danger of proliferation of materials and technology.

In a ceremony to take place today at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Israel will present a work of art by Israeli artist Yaakov Agam symbolizing the potential in atomic energy for the advancement of peace and development.