Egypt slams West for blocking resolution on Israeli nuclear arms

By Reuters

Haaretz

Seotember 24, 2006

Egypt criticised Western powers on Saturday for blocking efforts to declare Israel's reputed nuclear arsenal a threat.

The United States and other Western states combined on Friday to stifle a resolution at the U.N.'s nuclear agency, the IAEA, demanding Israel use atomic energy only for peaceful purposes and help set up a Middle East nuclear arms-free zone.

The gathering voted in favour of a milder resolution, also initiated by Arab states, "affirming the urgent need for all states in the Middle East to accept full-scope IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear activities".

In a news release on Saturday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit slammed what he described as double standards and discriminatory policies on the part of Western countries.

"It is unacceptable that these countries continue to ignore the danger posed by the Israeli nuclear threat to stability and security in the Middle East," he said.

Aboul Gheit called on Israel to accede to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to subject Israel's nuclear energy programme to safeguards and checks.

Aboul Gheit said these countries should express the same level of interest in the Israeli nuclear threat as they do in other non-proliferation cases, and described Israel's nuclear programme as a "direct challenge" to the NPT regime.

"For developing and Arab countries to comprehend the concern Western powers are expressing over the Iranian nuclear issue, these Western powers have to convince everyone that they adhere to all that is lawful, and not pick sides," Aboul Gheit said.

Israel neither admits nor denies having atomic weapons under a policy of "strategic ambiguity", but most experts believe it has about 200 nuclear warheads.

Last year, Israeli police filed charges against nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu for telling Western media that Israel assembled hydrogen and and neutron bombs at its Dimona nuclear reactor. Vanunu is currently banned from traveling.