Israel found itself on the sharp end Friday of an Arab-sponsored resolution adopted at the UN atomic agency’s annual meeting criticising the country for its alleged nuclear weapons arsenal.
The resolution, approved by a large majority at the general council of the 151-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called on “all states” in the Middle East to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The motion, approved by 113 votes with eight abstentions, did not name Israel but the Jewish state is the only country in the volatile region not to have signed up to the NPT, which aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
“It remains a source of astonishment … that some appear to still hold the view that NPT universality, and the global application of compliance to IAEA safeguards, are objectives that are only desirable in certain cases,” Egypt’s envoy to the IAEA, Hassan Younis, said.
The move comes ahead of a hoped-for 2012 meeting on establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, as well as a preparatory forum at IAEA headquarters in Vienna this November.
An IAEA resolution singling out Israel made headlines in 2009 when it was adopted by a small majority. In 2010 it was narrowly defeated only after intense diplomatic efforts by Israel’s close ally the United States.
This year Arab states decided not to table this one, saying it was a goodwill gesture ahead of the 2012 conference.
Israel is widely believed to be the only Middle East country with nuclear weapons, although others including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya are suspected of trying, or having tried in the past, to follow suit.
Signing up to the NPT would oblige Israel to open up its nuclear facilities to the IAEA. Iran signed up to the NPT before the 1979 Islamic revolution and so has to allow access to the watchdog’s inspectors, though they say they have not been shown everything in its disputed nuclear programme.
“We cannot help but wonder whether the Arab states are motivated this year by the perceived need to divert attention from their own domestic problems,” said David Danieli, deputy head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission.
“Israel is in fact the one (which) is gravely threatened by the alarming proliferation developments in the Middle East region.”
The United States abstained in the vote.