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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to leave for Washington on Monday to take part in the nuclear security summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama. Netanyahu is not expected to meet privately with Obama during the summit, the prime minister's office said.

Ellen Tauscher, the U.S. under secretary of state for arms control, yesterday phoned deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon to inform him that the United States would continue to respect a policy of ambiguity on the nuclear arms of its allies.

This can be seen as further bolstering of the understanding, more than four decades old, between Israel and the United States, regarding Israel's policy of ambiguity on whether or not it posseses nuclear arms.

Tauscher told Ayalon that she had made similar calls to a number of other countries the United States views as allies. She added that the United States would protect its allies and act against countries that contravened nuclear verification powers or those that do not meet its obligations toward the international community, such as North Korea and Iran.

Obama has invited more than 40 countries to the summit, which will deal with the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorist groups.

Netanyahu will arrive in Washington on Monday evening after the start of the summit and will take part in three or four sessions on Tuesday and return to Israel on Wednesday.

The summit is not expected to focus on issues like nuclear disarmament or international inspection of nuclear facilities in various countries.

A government source in Jerusalem said that Israel had been party to the formulation of the summit's closing statement to ensure that the issue of inspection of Israel's nuclear facilities did not come up in any official statement.

However, it is believed that some speeches during the summit, notably that by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, will condemn Israel's nuclear program and call on the international community to press Israel to allow international inspection of its facilities and to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Netanyahu will be accompanied at the summit by the head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, Shaul Horev, who was in charge of preparations for the Israeli delegation, and National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, among other officials.

According to Netanyahu's bureau, the White House said the president would not be meeting with leaders he had recently met. Netanyahu met with Obama in Washington late last month.

Obama does plan to meet with Mubarak and the presidents of China and Russia, among others.

No meetings have so far been scheduled for Netanyahu with other senior U.S. administration officials, such as special envoy George Mitchell, who is still waiting for the prime minister's response to Obama's demands regarding talks with the Palestinians - mainly the demand to freeze Jewish construction in East Jerusalem for four months.

No meetings have been held on this matter over the past few days of the forum of seven senior cabinet ministers.

Mitchell has meanwhile postponed a trip to Israel that had been scheduled for next week.

"The response to the American administration will be given in the near future, but there is no cut-off date by which the answer must be given," the Prime Minister's Bureau said.