Obama 'Strongly' Opposes Singling Out of Israel at Nuclear Conference

189 signatories of Non-Proliferation Treaty back a declaration proposing a 2012 conference to discuss banning nuclear weapons from the Middle East.

United States President Barack Obama said Friday that he 'strongly' opposed efforts to single out Israel on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation and would oppose actions that jeopardize Israel's national security.

U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House on Thursday, May 27, 2010. Credit: AP

"We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israels national security," Obama said, adding that "the greatest threat to proliferation in the Middle East, and to the NPT, is Irans failure to live up to its NPT obligations."

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference adopted Friday a declaration upholding principles of disarmament and calling for an international conference in 2012 with the aim to establish a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East.

The 189 NPT parties also decided to address North Korea in the final declaration, calling on that country to return to negotiations to settle the dispute over its nuclear activities.
The 28-page declaration was adopted by consensus, closing a month of debate that began on May 3. It contains a 22-point action plan.

U.S. National Security Adviser General James L. Jones also deplored the decision to single out Israel, calling the move "gratuitous".

"The failure of the resolution to mention Iran, a nation in longstanding violation of the NPT and UN Security Council Resolutions which poses the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation in the region and to the integrity of the NPT, is also deplorable," Jones said.

Under the NPT's action plan, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - commit to speed up arms reductions, take other steps to diminish the importance of atomic weapons, and report back on progress by 2014.

The NPT is intended to stop the spread of atomic weapons, though it allowed the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia to keep their arsenals while calling on them to negotiate on disarmament.

The nuclear power plant in DimonaCredit: Archive

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the adoption of the declaration and its plan of action.

"A strong spirit of compromise and cooperation has delivered a significant agreement to build a safer and more secure world," Ban said in a statement.

The action plan "lays the solid foundation to further strengthen the treaty and address the challenges ahead," Ban said. He welcomed the nuclear-weapon-states to commit themselves to actions to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Nuclear-weapons-free zones around the world and talks on nuclear disarmament are part of the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, but has so far failed to get the world's five nuclear powers to agree on a legal timetable for a total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Those powers - the United States, Russia, France, China and Britain - still resist pressure by other NPT parties to impose such a timeline.

The NPT conference chairman, Philippine Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, has said that the revised draft declaration was "carefully balanced" to reflect demands by all parties. He said adoption of the declaration would allow "all the seeds of hope planted throughout the conference would bear fruit."

The declaration called on the UN secretary general, the US, Russia and Britain to designate a facilitator to organize the conference in 2012 to be attended by "all" Middle East nations. Those three countries co-sponsored a resolution calling for a nuclear-weapons- free Middle East when the NPT met in 1995.

It said that resolution must be implemented in order to help the peace process in the Middle East region. It called on Israel to sign the NPT and to place "all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."

The document called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and chemical and biological weapons in the Middle East.

Sticking Points

The creation of a WMD-free zone would eventually force Israel to declare and abandon its atomic bombs. U.S. officials say such a zone could not be created without Mideast peace.

Israel, which like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan never signed the NPT, is presumed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal but neither confirms nor denies its existence.

The Obama administration changed U.S. policy by joining Britain, France, Russia and China in backing a Mideast nuclear conference while encouraging Israel to participate.

"We've got a strong draft that would strengthen all three pillars of the NPT - disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy," a diplomat said.

Britain's chief delegate, Ambassador John Duncan, told Reuters the draft text was "unprecedented" in its scope.

The 2005 NPT review collapsed after participants could not agree on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and in the face developing nations' annoyance with the United States for failing to meet previous disarmament pledges.

The creation of such a zone could ultimately force Israel to sign the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and abandon any nuclear weapons it has. But U.S. officials say this could not happen until there was peace in the region.



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