Israeli officials appaluded this week’s decision by a conference of U.N. signatories to extend indefinitely the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gad Ya’acobi welcomed the consensus decision of the NPT Review Conference.
He said Israel was especially pleased that the resolutions adopted by the conference did not single out Israel for refusing to single out Israel for refusing to sign the NPT, despite months of intense pressure by Arab countries to do so.
After weeks of sometimes bitter debate, the conference agreed Thursday to make the 25-year-old treaty a permanent pact. The decision was made by consensus without a vote.
The treaty bans all but the five nations who had nuclear weapons in 1970, when the treaty was first ratified, from acquiring them.
The treaty permits the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain and China to remain nuclear powers, but mandates that these nations pursue the transfer of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons disarmament.
For months, Egyptian officials had threatened to withhold support for indefinite renewal because of its insistence that Israel sign on.
Israel has refused to sign the treaty, though it has recently promised to begin negotiating the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East — but only after there is a comprehensive regional peace that includes Iran, Iraq and Libya.
Israel is widely believed to have developed an arsenal of hundreds of nuclear weapons, but its formal position is that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons unclear weapons into the Middle East.
Along with Israel, India and Pakistan have also refused to sign the NPT and are also believed to possess a nuclear capability.
In a separate resolution Thursday, the conference called on all states in the Middle East “without exception” to sign the NPT and to accept International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of their nuclear facilities.
Arab nations, led by Egypt and Algeria, backed away under intense U.S. pressure from language that would have specifically condemned Israel, and instead settled for a more general statement about a nuclear-free Middle East.
“We have here provided a gift to the next generation, a very important legacy,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, told reporters after the NPT decision was made.
President Clinton, who was on a state visit to Kiev, Ukraine, called the U.N. decision “a victory for all.”