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UN agency calls rare mideast nuclear talks

UN agency calls rare mideast nuclear talks

Arab states, Israel signalled readiness to join talks; But Iran says no "justification" for proposed forum now; Arabs see presumed Israeli nuclear weapons as continued threat

September 3, 2011 4:20 by

The UN nuclear agency has invited its members — including Israel, Arab states and Iran — to attend rare talks later this year about the volatile Middle East and efforts to rid the world of atomic bombs, it said on Friday.

While Israel and some Arab nations have indicated readiness to take part in the planned forum inVienna in November, Iran said it saw no justification for such a meeting now.

In a letter to Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA took a swipe at Tehran’s arch-foe Israel, which is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.

Nuclear weapons are especially controversial in the Middle East. Arab states often criticise Israelover its presumed nuclear arsenal. Israel and the United States see Iran as the region’s main proliferation threat, accusing Tehran of covertly seeking to develop nuclear arms. Iran denies this.

“We are of the view that stability cannot be achieved in a region where massive imbalances in military capabilities are maintained, particularly through the possession of nuclear weapons which allow one party to threaten its neighbours and the region,” Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh wrote.

The letter was made available to Reuters on Friday.

A gathering of regional adversaries around the same table to talk about nuclear arms and disarmament could be symbolically important, even though any substantive progress is likely to remain elusive.

Amano wrote to IAEA member states about attending the Nov. 21-22 forum to debate experience from other parts of the world in establishing zones free of nuclear weapons, such as Africa and Latin America, the U.N. agency said in a statement.

Participants would “consider how the experience of nuclear-weapons free zones in several regions of the world could be relevant to the Middle East,” the IAEA added.

Diplomats stress that no decisions are expected at the planned talks, but that they can be useful as a way to start a dialogue and help build badly needed confidence in the region.

In a report circulated to member states on Friday, Amano said he had sought the views of Middle East countries on the forum’s agenda. Twelve Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Iran, Israel,Saudi Arabia and Syria, had written back.

He suggested that his efforts had been broadly welcomed, even though some Arab states proposed changes to the agenda.

Amano “will pursue further consultations with member states of the Middle East region and with other interested parties on arrangements conducive to the Forum being a constructive contribution towards the objective of the establishment” of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, the report said.

Amano told Reuters last month he saw “momentum” for his plan to host discussions between Israel and Arab states. IAEA members decided in 2000 that such a meeting should take place but agreement on the agenda and other issues has been lacking.

“A nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East will not be achieved tomorrow, everyone knows it, but we can get closer,” Amano said in the August 19 interview. “Increasing confidence is very much needed, even a small step is helpful.”

Israel is widely assumed to hold the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal and is also the only…

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  1. MK on September 4, 2011 11:32 am

    This is perfect example of hypocracy!
    …Israel continues to hold weapons of mass destruction while other ME countries, particulary Iran & UAE, who’re trying to pursue nuclear ambitions for energy are being condemned and forced to stop their activity.

  2. Andrew on September 5, 2011 9:54 am

    Whilst Israel almost certainly holds limited yield nuclear weapons, that fact they’ve not been deployed means we can be reasonably assured they are defensive in nature, held as a deterent should her neighbours launch another pre-emptive war/invasion.

    I don’t think anyone seriousy believes Iran’s nuclear ambitions are purely civilian in purpose. The real question is whether Iran is building up a nuclear arsenal as a deterrent, or for proactive use.

  3. MK on September 5, 2011 11:20 am

    Your point is valid, however, the fact of the matter is that when someone is holding something illegal and tells you that you can’t own it, is unjustified ang bogus!

    I do believe that Iran’s motives are not 100% clear, however, they should not be sanctioned to pursue their ambitions when there are other countries that hold much bigger threats in the region such as India, Pakistan, & Israel.

    If a law is made, it should be abided by all, regardless of the past hisoty or untrusted future intentions that a country might hold!

  4. Khalid AlKhatib on September 6, 2011 6:35 am

    Andrew get your facts right, Israel has between 75 – 400 Nukes, that’s not very limited now is it, the fact that phosphorus bombs have been used on civilians in Gaza including children and elderly people whilst the militants have been firing home made rockets which barely reach any where, already says so much about the nukes being a deterrent

    If the whole issue is about Iran or any other country developing nuclear war heads,

    what’ seems to be the problem Israel Pakistan and India have them, once all of the countries in the region are free of WMD then the world community can enforce what ever it wants on specific countries.

    And I just love how hypocritical these organizations are, and how twisted some people are as well.

  5. Andrew on September 6, 2011 11:12 am

    MK: India, Pakistan and Israel neither signed, nor ratified, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so it isn’t applicable to them. Iran on the other hand did both sign and ratify it, hence it remains applicable to them.

    Khalid: I haven’t stated anything incorrect, perhaps you should get yours right; I said “limited yield”, that means a lower destructive power compared to higher yield warheads found on intercontinental ballistic missles.

    Even then, had I used the word “limited” in the context of the numbers possessed it would still be correct. Assuming the range you quoted is correct, it would still constitute a limited arsenal compared to the stocks maintained by official nuclear powers. For example, the current US nuclear arsenal is over 5,000 warheads – down from a peak of over 31,000 warheads in the late 1960s.

    White phos is not a weapon of mass destruction, so how is that relevant to either the topic, or what I said?

    Given that Israel’s national neighbours haven’t started another war her since the early 70s (as opposed to 3 in the preceding 25 years) it speaks volumes for its deterrent value. It does however have a far more limited effect when dealing with a political group (like Hezbollah, and the war they knowingly provoked in 2006) as opposed to dealing with a nation.

  6. MK on September 6, 2011 11:38 am

    Thank you Khalid!

    And if this is any sign of cooperation…

    …I hope that it’s for the best of the Iranian people!


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