Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:32 pm (KSA) 16:32 pm (GMT)

IAEA passes nuke-free Middle East resolution

The Egyptian-sponsored resolution was backed by 53 votes (File)
The Egyptian-sponsored resolution was backed by 53 votes (File)

The UN atomic agency passed a non-binding resolution Thursday calling for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, with Israel and the United States voting against and EU members abstaining.

The Egyptian-sponsored resolution was backed by 53 votes, with two against and 47 abstentions, the chair of the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

The resolution called on "all states of the region, pending the establishment of the zone, not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or permit the stationing on their territories or on territories under their control of nuclear weapons."

It also urged "nuclear-weapons states and all other states to render assistance in the establishment of the zone."

The IAEA has a tradition of adopting resolutions by consensus but the Middle East issue has become highly politicised at the agency's general conference.

The conference approves broad policy lines for the 144-member IAEA, the verification arm of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors makes decisions for the agency on how policy is implemented.

Israel's policy is one of "nuclear ambiguity", neither confirming nor denying it has nuclear weapons even if, in an apparent blunder, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared to imply late last year that his country does in fact have the bomb.

The Arab states insist, however, that the Jewish state does have such weapons and is a danger to peace and stability in the Middle East.

Traditionally at the IAEA's general conference, Arab states introduce a resolution on the Israeli nuclear threat but in the face of strong Western opposition, they withdraw the text.

It is then postponed to the following year in return for Israel agreeing to a call for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

This arrangement fell apart for the first time at last year's general conference.

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