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U.N. Presses Israel to Permit Atomic Audits

Israel should accede to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty "without further delay" and permit the International Atomic Energy Agency to audit its atomic activities, according to a measure endorsed on Monday by a vast majority of the U.N. General Assembly.

The nonbinding text also endorses a recently scuttled international meeting on establishing the Middle East as a WMD-free zone, the Associated Press reported. Washington cited regional turbulence and Iranian policies in calling off the event planned for this month, but Tehran and a number of Arab governments suggested Tel Aviv had prompted the cancellation by deciding not to participate. 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.

"The truth is that the Israeli regime is the only party which rejected to conditions for a conference," Iranian envoy Khodadad Seifi said immediately prior to formal consideration of the measure. "Strong pressure [is necessary] on that regime to participate in the conference without any preconditions," he said.

Tel Aviv has consistently highlighted the threat of atomic materials and technologies spreading across the Middle East, Israeli envoy Isi Yanouka asserted, referring specifically to Iran and Syria.

"All these cases challenge Israel's security and cast a dark shadow at the prospect of embarking on a meaningful regional security process," Yanouka stated. "The fact that the sponsors include in this anti-Israeli resolution language referring to the 2012 conference proves above all the ill-intent of the Arab states with regard to this conference."

The U.N. proposal received support from 174 nations; Israel voted in opposition together with Canada, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and the United States. Six countries did not participate in the vote.

The international meeting would not convene based on "the whim of just one party, a party with nuclear warheads," Syrian envoy Abdullah Hallak said. "We call on the international community to put pressure on Israel to accept the NPT, get rid of its arsenal and delivery systems, in order to allow for peace and stability in our region," he added.

The event could take place next year, British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt indicated previously.

Washington supported a call in the U.N. measure for holdout states to join the nonproliferation treaty "at the earliest date." India, which possesses nuclear weapons outside the nonproliferation regime, joined Israel in opposing the language.

Tel Aviv supported a second measure on a regional nuclear weapons ban despite having concerns over its statements on inspections, according to a U.N. press release.

Separately, the General Assembly on Monday backed a Japanese-led call for the global abolition of nuclear armaments, Kyodo News reported. The proposal received 174 votes in favor, the largest majority to date to back the text put forward each year by Tokyo.

A total of 58 measures received support from the international body on Monday, according to the U.N. release. Other endorsed measures addressed matters including efforts to ban nuclear weapons in Africa, Central Asia and across the southern hemisphere; a possible guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon nations; and averting a weapons buildup in space.

The General Assembly backed a number of additional nuclear disarmament proposals, including an International Court of Justice position in favor of eliminating all atomic armaments, as well as statements concerning the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the international Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland. A single document lists the measures.

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