Friday, 7 May 2010

Israel Matzav: US to take 'active role' in pursuing nuke-free Middle East

US to take 'active role' in pursuing nuke-free Middle East

This is from an AP report on the IAEA's efforts to pursue a 'nuclear free zone' in the Middle East.

Egypt has proposed that a Nonproliferation Treaty conference now meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York back a plan calling for the start of negotiations next year on a Mideast free of nuclear arms.

The U.S. has cautiously supported the idea while saying that implementing it must wait for progress in the Middle East peace process. Israel also says a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement must come first.

"The question is, how do you do that in the absence of a peace plan?" Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher said Wednesday of the "nuke-free" zone idea.

Still, Washington and the four other nuclear weapons countries recognized as such under the NPT appear to be ready to move from passive support to a more active role.

In her speech to the U.N. nuclear conference on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Washington would support "practical measures for moving toward that objective," while Tauscher said the U.S. has been working "for months" with Egypt on the issue.

Washington also has been discussing it with the Israelis, said another Western diplomatic source, who asked for anonymity since he was discussing other countries' contacts.

Russian arms negotiator Anatoly I. Antonov, speaking on behalf of the five NPT nuclear powers, said these nations were "committed to full implementation" of a Middle East nuclear free zone.

Amano's April 7 letter comes seven months after IAEA member states at their annual Vienna conference narrowly passed a resolution directly criticizing Israel and its atomic program, with 49 of the 110 nations present in support, 45 against and 16 abstaining.

The result was a setback not only for Israel but also for Washington and other backers of the Jewish state, which had lobbied for 18 years of past practice — debate on the issue without a vote.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: US to take 'active role' in pursuing nuke-free Middle East

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