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Israel, Arab Nations Differ on Mideast Nuclear-free Zone: U.N. Official

The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency flies outside the organization's headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The U.N. nuclear watchdog has not yet been successful in convincing Israel and Arab countries to agree on a road map for a regional ban on atomic arms and other unconventional weapons, according to a new report by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano's office (AP Photo/Hans Punz). The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency flies outside the organization's headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The U.N. nuclear watchdog has not yet been successful in convincing Israel and Arab countries to agree on a road map for a regional ban on atomic arms and other unconventional weapons, according to a new report by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano's office (AP Photo/Hans Punz).

Efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency to help persuade Israel and Arab nations to agree on a path toward a Middle East free of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction have been unsuccessful thus far, according to a new report by agency head Yukiya Amano's office, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Interchanges have revealed that there still is a "fundamental difference of views" between Arab nations and Israel, but Amano will continue trying to bridge the diverging perspectives, according to his team.

IAEA member nations last year tasked Amano with meeting with officials from the region to discuss bringing all atomic programs under agency safeguards. Israel is thought to be the area's sole nuclear-weapons nation, but it by policy does not confirm or deny its arsenal and is not a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In a document issued last week, ahead of the agency's plenary meeting in mid-September, Amano said he backed exploration of "relevant new ideas and approaches." However, no headway was achieved on applying "comprehensive agency safeguards covering all nuclear activities in the region," the report said.

It remains unclear when, if ever, a regional conference will be held on negotiating a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone for the entire Middle East. Plans to hold the U.N.-backed forum in late 2012 ultimately were abandoned after Israel would not confirm whether it would participate.

Israel and the United States have supported the idea of attending such a conference under certain conditions. At the same time, they have maintained that a regional ban on nuclear weapons could not be achieved as long as Iran continues its controversial atomic development activities and there is no broader Arab-Israeli peace arrangement.

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