Israel spurns nuclear watchdog's call to open atomic sites to inspection


ISRAEL HAS rejected the call by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and open up its atomic sites to international inspection.

The nuclear watchdog, meeting yesterday in Vienna, adopted a resolution expressing concern about “Israeli nuclear capabilities” and called on agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei to work on the issue.

The motion was adopted by 49 votes to 45, with 16 abstentions. Russia and China, both permanent members of the UN security council, voted in favour.

But David Danieli, deputy director of Israel’s atomic energy commission, said Israel deplored the vote for singling it out while many of its neighbours remained hostile to its existence. “Israel will not co-operate in any matter with this resolution which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and lines of division in the Middle East region,” he said.

Israel is one of only three countries along with India and Pakistan, which is not a signatory to the NPT. According to foreign media reports, the Jewish state is widely believed to possess several hundred nuclear warheads, as well as the means to deliver them.

Under a decades-old policy of “nuclear ambiguity” Israel has never confirmed nor denied processing atomic weapons, maintaining that the country “will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East”.

The vote was a setback not only for Israel but also for the US and other western backers of the Jewish state. They had lobbied for debate on the issue without a vote.

Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters the passage of the resolution was “very good news and a triumph for the oppressed nation of Palestine”.

Western states said it was unfair and counterproductive to isolate one member state. They said an IAEA resolution passed on Thursday, urging all Middle East nations to forswear atomic bombs, included Israel and made Friday’s proposal superfluous.

Arab nations said Israel had brought the resolution on itself by having never signed the 40-year-old NPT.

Before the vote, US ambassador Glyn Davies said the resolution was “redundant . . . Such an approach is highly politicised and does not address the complexities at play regarding crucial nuclear-related issues in the Middle East”.