'Nuclear-free Zone Impossible in anti-Israel Mideast'

Israel's nuclear chief tells IAEA that Jerusalem support arms control; Arab delegates walk out of speech.

The chairman of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission on Tuesday told the international community that a nuclear-free Middle East requires a change in regional attitude toward Israel.

In an address to the International Atomic Energy Association in Vienna, Shaul Chorev emphasized Israel's stance that it was prepared in principle to commit to a Middle East free of nuclear weapon.

Chorev also reiterated that Israel has repeatedly asserted it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.

"It is our vision and policy to establish the Middle East as a mutually verifiable zone free if weapons of mass destruction and their delivery," Chorev told delegates.

While Israel firmly supports control of nuclear arms, said Chorev, such a move cannot be imposed on the Middle East from the outside.

"It is the firm view and the policy of Israel, that the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is based on the absolute duty of each state not to abuse this right," said Chorev.

"As the international community has accepted and recognized in other regions, the establishment of such a zone can only emanate from within the region," he said.

Chorev stressed that in order for the Middle East to function as a nuclear-free zone, the Arab states in the region needed to alter that approach to Israel.

"Progress toward realizing this vision cannot be made without a fundamental change in regional circumstances, including a significant transformation in the attitude of states in the region toward Israel," he said.

"The constant efforts by member states in the region to single out the State of Israel in blatantly anti-Israel resolutions in this General Conference is a clear reflection of such hostile attitude.

He also emphasized that many states that are party to the international non-proliferation treaty have violated their commitments. "The most widely recognized cases of non-compliance with legally binding non-proliferation obligations have occurred in the Middle East, by states that are parties to the NPT.

"Grave and overt violations by Iran and Syria had been detected and then formally reported by the IAEA," he added. "The Agency's investigations in these two countries have been hampered by a continued lack of cooperation, denial of access and efforts to conceal and mislead the inspectors."

Chorev promised that Israel was following these developments with "profound concern" and would "assist the international community in its efforts to prevent dangerous proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the abuse of the right to peaceful nuclear energy."

"The activities of these countries that breach their international commitments and obligations must be met with concrete and immediate international measures," he said. "Violations cannot go unpunished."

During Chorev's address, representatives every Arab state save Jordan and Egypt walked out of the auditorium.