Arab League Vows to Drop Out of NPT if Israel Admits It Has Nuclear Weapons

Arabs say as soon as Israel announces it has nuclear weapons, they will walk away from the Nonproliferation Treaty.

Arab countries will walk away from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if Israel ever officially acknowledges it has nuclear weapons, the Arab League announced in a statement Wednesday.

As Arab foreign ministers met at the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League to prepare for their annual summit at the end of the month, they also issued a series of statements on regional issues, including extremely sensitive matter of Israel's refusal to join the NPT.

As soon as Israel announces it has nuclear weapons, the Arabs will announce their withdrawal from the Nonproliferation Treaty, the statement said.

Israel is widely believed to be the only country in the Middle East to have nuclear weapons, though it maintains a policy of ambiguity, insisting it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region, without confirming or denying their existence.

That policy was shaken late last year when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared to acknowledge Israel's possession of nuclear weapons in an interview with German television. He later maintained he was misunderstood.

Arab countries, all of which are signatories to the treaty, have long called for a nuclear-free Middle East and expressed their concern over Israel's apparent possession of nuclear weapons.

They said that if Israel admitted to having the weapons, they would call on the UN Security Council to pressure Israel to destroy its nuclear arsenal and bring its other atomic installation under international inspection.

If this did not happen, Arab countries would leave the treaty and not sign any new one until Israel itself joined.

While no Arab country is known to be actively seeking nuclear weapons, several countries in the region have expressed interest in starting civilian nuclear programs with foreign cooperation.