Egypt: Nuclear-free Mideast key to settling Iran nuclear issue

New York–Egypt said Tuesday establishing a Middle East nuclear-free zone at next month’s nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference here was the key to resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran.

“Success in dealing with Iran will depend to a large extent on how successfully we deal with the establishment of a nuclear-free zone” in the Middle East, Egypt’s UN Ambassador Maged Abdel Aziz told a luncheon briefing with reporters.

“We refuse the existence of any nuclear weapons in (the Middle East) whether it is in Iran or whether it is in Israel,” he added.

Egypt is to present a working paper at the NPT review conference, which opens next week, urging implementation of a 1995 resolution calling for establishment of a nuclear-free Middle East.

The paper calls on NPT members to “renew their resolve to undertake, individually and collectively, all necessary measures aimed at the prompt implementation of the resolution, including the accession by Israel to the treaty as soon as possible as a non-nuclear weapon state.”

Israel should also place all its nuclear facilities under the full scope of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, it adds.

The Egyptian envoy said although there was no linkage between the Iranian and Iranian nuclear issues, both should be addressed simultaneously.

He expressed hope that Israel, widely believed to have an arsenal of several hundred nuclear bombs, would take part in the NPT review conference which is to run from May 3 to 28.

Abdel Aziz said setting up a Middle East nuclear-free zone would be a “good step” to coax Iran into complying with its obligations under the NPT which it has signed.

Israel has never publicly acknowledged having nuclear weapons, maintaining a policy of deliberate ambiguity since it inaugurated its Dimona nuclear reactor in 1965.

Like nuclear-armed countries India, Pakistan and North Korea, the Jewish state is not party to the NPT in order to avoid international inspections.

Western powers, meanwhile, accuse Iran of using its uranium enrichment program as a cover to acquire nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and geared toward electricity generation.

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