Israel Rejects U.S.-backed Arab Plan for Conference on Nuclear-free Mideast

The conference would take place in Helsinki toward the end of 2012, or early in 2013; Israel calls it 'coercion.'

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Amir Oren
Amir Oren

Israel expressed its strong opposition on Wednesday to an Arab initiative, supported by the Obama administration, to hold a conference that would debate the possibility of a nuclear-free Middle East.

The conference would take place in Helsinki toward the end of 2012, or early in 2013. Brig.Gen. (Res.) Shaul Horev, director of the Israeli Nuclear Energy Committee, who reports directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately trashed the idea.

President Barack Obama had promised to promote the move at the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Horev expressed Israeli opposition at the 56th general convention of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, saying that the idea of a nuclear arms-free Middle East, which been met with reservations by Israel, was now even less possible, due to the "volatile and hostile situation" in the area.

"In order to realize this idea there is need for prior conditions and a complete reversal of the current trend in the area," Horev said. "This is an idea born in other areas and alien to the reality and political culture of the area. Nuclear demilitarization in the Middle East, according to the Israeli position, will be possible only after the establishment of peace and trust among the states of the area, as a result of a local initiative, not of external coercion."

Horev began his address by criticizing Iran and Syria, whom he described as the centers of negative processes in the area, due to their covert moves to obtain nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction. He added that Iran is creating a "hollow impression" that it intends to cooperate, but the international community's moves actually have had no effect on the Iranian nuclear plan. Moreover, "Iran might be searching for an excuse to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty," Horev said.

According to Horev, Israel is not indifferent to Iran's direct and vitriolic threats on its existence, and warned that the Assad regime in Syria might use chemical arms against the rebels, or transfer it to Hezbollah. Horev added that Israel supported Jordanian use of nuclear power for civilian use.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad observes an object representing nuclear fuel, 2010.Credit: Reuters
These satellite images, taken August 5, 2007 (Top) and October 24, 2007 (Bottom), show a suspected nuclear facility in Syria.Credit: Reuters

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