Diplomats: U.S. will not pressure Israel on nukes


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A statement from the major powers committing to a nuclear-free Middle East will not result in pressure on Israel, according to two diplomats familiar with the issue.

Reuters reported Wednesday that the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council — including the United States — have prepared a unanimous statement committing "to a full implementation of the 1995 NPT resolution on the Middle East and we support all ongoing efforts to this end."

The NPT, or nuclear non-proliferation treaty, commits signatories to not acquiring nuclear weapons or to reducing existing stockpiles. Israel, which is not a signatory, is believed to possess as many as 200 warheads.

In a related story, the Associated Press said U.S. officials were discussing with Israel "practical measures" toward Israel’s NPT compliance.

Two diplomats separately told JTA that such discussions would not amount to pressure on Israel to end its nuclear capability.

One of the diplomats said "practical measures" could include a moratorium on testing or setting up a body to deal with nuclear disarmament. Such steps would not affect Israel’s alleged existing reserve of nuclear weapons.

It seems clear, however, that any Israeli cooperation in such a venture would require a degree of transparency. Until now, Israel has refused to confirm or deny its nuclear capability.

Talks on NPT compliance, initiated by the United States and under United Nations auspices, are under way in New York.

Egypt is leading an effort to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone and, with Iran, wants to cite Israel in any such resolution.

The Western diplomats told JTA that the United States and its Western allies would quash any such mention.

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