London conference urges Israel to join NPT


London : Nuclear non-proliferation experts in a London conference here Monday called on Israel to join Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and prepare ground for a WMD-free Middle East.

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The fifth London Conference on a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone held at SOAS also questioned the ‘impartiality of the west’ in dealing with the Israeli nuclear weapons issue.

Estimates indicate Israel has at least 200 nuclear warheads while refusing to sign the NPT.

Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary-General of Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, said in the conference that Israeli nuclear bombs are the “main obstacle” in materialising the concept of a WMD-free Middle East.

“Iran and Egypt declared their intention of eliminating nuclear weapons in the region in the 1970s and to create a Middle East free of WMDs… However, Israeli nuclear weapons have impeded this initiative.”

Pointing oout that the refusal of Israel to admit its nuclear weapons is threatening peace and security in the region, Cotta-Ramusino said that the issue of the Middle East WMDs is one of the “most complicated and difficult issues” to deal with.

“Israel is not part of the NPT. Israel does not want to admit whether it possesses nuclear weapons or not. But there is a common understanding that Israel has a sizeable amount of nuclear weapons,” he said.

Cotta-Ramusino reiterated that the prospects of the establishment of a WMD-free Middle East could be big enough if Israel admitted to join the NPT.

Also speaking in the conference, Laine Saunders the head of the Counter Proliferation Department at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office stressed the need for Israel to abandon its nuclear weapons and join the NPT.

Saunders said Israel should engage in negotiations about setting up a Middle East free of WMDs while other countries in the region should feel responsible to help materialize the idea.

“This is not about sweeping the issue (of Israeli nuclear warheads) under the carpet. This is about recognizing that there are very genuine concerns about Israel’s nuclear capabilities…We urge Israel to join the NPT and create conditions for the establishment of a WMD-Free Middle East Zone,” she said, underlining the universality of the NPT.

Repeating the west’s quite unfounded lingering claims, she also noted that there are “too many ambiguities” and “too small clarification” by Iran regarding its nuclear program.

“If we could be convinced that Iran is in the path of civilian nuclear program, we could be supportive of it,” she said.

Saunders said the Middle East WMD Free Zone Conference in 2012 is a “great opportunity” for the countries in the region to discuss the prospects of setting up a secure and stable Middle East.

Susan F. Burke, the Special Representative of the US President for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, also said in the one-day SOAS Conference that the last NPT conference was a “significant accomplishment”.

Burke said that a WMD-free Middle East is “an achievable goal” which will not happen overnight and without the “concerted effort” by the international community.

“The United States is fully supportive of the objectives of the resolution on the Middle East in the NPT Review Conference in 1995 and 2010,” she said.

Obama’s representative said that the idea of a WMD-free Middle East is tied to the issue of peace in the Middle East, urging that all countries in the region and Israel have to contribute to the materialization of the idea, first presented by Iran in 1974.

The representative of the Egyptian Embassy in London, Sami Einien, too, said in the meeting that the Middle East WMD-free zone initiative should be pursued within an “effective framework”.

Einien said that a comprehensive convention is required to turn the NPT Review Conference recommendations into action.

He added that nuclear states are expected to eliminate their weapons totally by the year 2025 while the NPT should be universally applied to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, particularly in the Middle East.

He said that all NPT signatories are entitled to develop nuclear energy and to build the nuclear fuel cycle for peaceful purposes.