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Arab States Set Aside IAEA Bid to Pressure Israel: Syria

Syria on Wednesday confirmed that Arab nations have set aside until next year a proposal for the International Atomic Energy Agency to formally demand Israeli accession to the global nonproliferation regime, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Sept. 21).

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. Jerusalem in the past has indicated it would only join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty -- a move that would require abrogation of its presumed stockpile -- if peace in the broader Middle East is achieved, according to previous reports.

"The Arab countries have decided to postpone the submission of a draft resolution ... to the next session," according to Bassam al-Sabbagh, Syria's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The move represents the "good faith" of Arab governments and their hope for progress in ridding the Middle East of nuclear arms at a meeting planned for next year, al-Sabbagh told the IAEA General Conference taking place this week in Vienna, Austria. A planned November IAEA meeting involving states from the area is expected to address existing regional nuclear-weapon bans, and the 2012 conference would consider a potential WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

Recent reports indicated that Arab countries, in a bid to advance regional arms control dialogues, had agreed not to pursue a resolution at the IAEA conference urging Jerusalem to sign onto the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Similar measures were pursued at the 2009 and 2010 meetings; the earlier measure passed, but last year's resolution was narrowly defeated, according to previous reports.

Jerusalem "has undertaken its nuclear activities outside any international control ... and possesses a huge military arsenal which does not only threaten the region but the whole world," the Syrian official told the 151-nation body, according to a translation of his remarks.

The 35-nation IAEA governing board's June call for U.N. Security Council action on a dispute over an alleged undisclosed Syrian nuclear facility reflects the atomic agency's "politicization," al-Sabbagh added (see GSN, Sept. 12).

The 2007 Israeli airstrike that destroyed the Dair Alzour facility was an act of "heinous aggression" that "should have been condemned by the international community," he said.

A "military building which did not have any relation with nuclear activities was destroyed" in the Israeli attack, he said.

The Vienna, Austria-based agency has for years sought with little success to investigate intelligence indications that Syria's Dair Alzour facility housed a reactor being built with North Korean aid and potentially intended to produce weapon-usable plutonium. A meeting between IAEA and Syrian officials on the nuclear impasse could occur on Oct. 10-11 (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, Sept. 21).

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