A nuclear-free Middle East is a dream for us all. The elephant in the room has always been Israel, protected by the US and Western powers because, well, it’s the Jewish state. Don’t disturb the Jews.
The United States accepted Arab demands to pressure Israel over its atomic program to rescue talks on shoring up a global anti-nuclear arms pact, Western envoys said on Friday.
Either or both could block the declaration because NPT meetings make decisions through consensus. If agreed, this would be the first deal at an NPT review meeting since 2000.
“We have a deal that everyone can live with,” a Western diplomat told Reuters. “Now the question, is will Iran do the right thing? Will they go against something the entire Arab
League and everyone else here is ready to support?”
Syrian delegates also refused to commit themselves to supporting the final declaration.
The final draft urges Israel, which did not participate in the conference, to sign the NPT and put its nuclear facilities under U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The United States fought hard to delete that clause but backed down to save the conference, delegates said.
Delegates were to hold a final session later on Friday to adopt the declaration, which contains plans for further disarmament, strengthening global non-proliferation efforts and ensuring access to technology for peaceful uses.
The NPT is intended to stop the spread of atomic weapons, though it allowed the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia to keep their arsenals while calling on them to negotiate on disarmament.
Analysts say the treaty has been under pressure due to Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs and the failure of the five official nuclear states to disarm.
The latest draft calls for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organize a meeting of all Mideast states in 2012 on how to make the region free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The creation of a WMD-free zone would eventually force Israel to declare and abandon its atomic bombs. U.S. officials say such a zone could not be created without Mideast peace.
The Jewish state, which like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan never signed the NPT, is presumed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal but neither confirms nor denies its existence.
The Obama administration changed U.S. policy by joining Britain, France, Russia and China in backing a Mideast nuclear conference while encouraging Israel to participate.
“We’ve got a strong draft that would strengthen all three pillars of the NPT – disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy,” a diplomat said.
Britain’s chief delegate, Ambassador John Duncan, told Reuters the draft text was “unprecedented” in its scope.
The 2005 NPT review collapsed after participants could not agree on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and in the face developing nations’ annoyance with the United States for failing to meet previous disarmament pledges.
Chief Iranian delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh accused the United States and the other nuclear powers of rejecting calls for a precise deadline for disarmament and other demands.
If these issues were not addressed in the declaration, he said Iran was prepared to act alone and vote against it.
But they said Iran or Syria might still block a final declaration now agreed by most of the 190 signatories of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, who have been trying for a month to strengthen the troubled pact.