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Israel Could Face Renewed Arab Nuclear Pressure

Eighteen Arab nations formally requested that Israel's nuclear activities be a focus of an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting later this year, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Tel Aviv "must take appropriate measures to ensure that Israel places all its nuclear installations under agency safeguards and accedes" to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the governments said in a June communication to the Vienna, Austria-based organization. Israel is widely believed to possess the only nuclear arms in the Middle East, though it has for decades maintained a policy of neither confirming nor denying its arsenal.

Arab governments backed off from proposing a measure critical of Israel's atomic policies at last year's IAEA General Conference. Their decision was reportedly to avoid undermining an initiative to establish the Middle East as a WMD-free zone. However, a 2012 deadline was missed for convening an international conference on the issue and as yet remains unscheduled, prompting some of its key regional advocates to blame Israel for the delay.

Ehud Azoulay, Israel's top envoy to the agency, said Arab governments "are taking a counterproductive route by raising this issue ... and trying to bash Israel."

"The atmosphere in the Middle East" is not presently favorable for talks on a possible Middle Eastern WMD ban, according to the official. "You see what is happening in Syria, in Libya, in Iran, [and] now in Egypt, as well," he told Reuters.

Arab states proposed IAEA resolutions on Israel's nuclear program in 2009 and 2010; the earlier measure passed, but the 2010 resolution was narrowly defeated. They did not pursue a similar measure in 2011.

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