The Israeli Drama

At the last moment, and to the surprise and displeasure of the Israeli delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Article 13 was added to the resolution on Iran. It states that "... a solution to the Iranian issue would contribute to global nonproliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery."

The original wording of the article, which was proposed by Egypt, was considerably harsher and was only toned down after marathon night sessions on the level of foreign ministers.

The drama over this article, which everyone knows is aimed above all at Israel, began Friday afternoon and led to a postponement of deliberations until yesterday.

For years, Egyptian representatives have tried to introduce resolutions calling for the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East at almost every international forum, particularly the IAEA.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei, who envisions a world free of nuclear weapons, also welcomed the final version.

Until now, such resolutions have only been accepted by the annual meeting of the IAEA's General Conference and not by its board of governors, due to firm opposition from the United States. This time, American opposition was weakened by support for the resolution from France, Germany and Britain.

A member of the American delegation to the IAEA told Haaretz that the Europeans were leaning toward the Egyptian version, partly in an effort to appease the Muslim and Arab world in the wake of the riots incited in recent days by the caricature of Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper.

On Friday night, the draft was submitted to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who rejected it. Later, the softer version that was eventually adopted was introduced. It spoke about a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, rather than referring specifically to nuclear weapons.

The American noted that the final version could be interpreted as including not only Israel but also states such as Syria that have chemical and perhaps also biological weapons.

In any event, even the softer version provoked complaints from the Israeli delegation. Israel is a member of the IAEA, but not the board of governors, although its representatives have observer status on that body.

Toward the end of the discussion, Israel's delegate, Israel Michaeli, said he opposed the article because the issue of Iran should not be connected to other regional issues. In any event, he said, everyone supports regions that are free of weapons of mass destruction, but it would be unacceptable and irresponsible to accept such a resolution at this stage.

Michaeli asked that his statements at the meeting, which was held in camera, not be made public because of Israel's wish to maintain a low profile at the IAEA.