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Israel, Arab Nations Reconvene Talks on Mideast WMD Ban

Middle Eastern nations held a third meeting to weigh holding a conference on a potential regional unconventional-arms ban, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The February gathering in Glion, Switzerland, appeared unlikely to lead to yield rapid progress toward a proposed conference on establishing a Middle Eastern weapons of mass destruction-free zone, according to a source who took part. Last month's discussion took place under the leadership of Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava, the U.N.-backed facilitator of efforts to convene the regional conference sought in 2010 by Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty member nations.

Despite the dialogue's apparent lack of short-term prospects, the source and informed envoys said that continued participation by mid-level Israeli and Arab delegates merits some degree of optimism.

A Middle Eastern envoy who joined last month's discussion said the exchange has "definitely been useful."

Israel has joined the preliminary discussions in spite of concerns that Arab neighbors could target its widely assumed status as the region's only nuclear-armed state. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied possessing an atomic arsenal.

Iran dispatched a low-ranking dignitary to "observe" an earlier meeting in Glion, but no Iranian delegate joined the subsequent meetings. Tehran is widely suspected of pursuing a nuclear-arms capability under the guise of a peaceful atomic program.

Israel and the United States have expressed conditional support for a potential regional WMD ban, but contend that such an arrangement is unlikely in the absence of a broader Arab-Israeli peace arrangement.

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