Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Press both Iran, Israel on nukes: Egypt

WASHINGTON — Egypt called Monday for world powers to press both Iran and Israel on nuclear weapons, saying that the Middle East should be a zone free of the ultra-destructive arms.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, who is representing Egypt at a major summit in Washington on nuclear security, voiced hope that diplomacy rather than sanctions would dissuade Iran from nuclear weapons.

But he said the so-called P5 -- the five permanent members on the Security Council -- should press Israel on its refusal to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"Let's also try to convince the P5 to bring Israel onboard. You see, you have possibly today two emerging threats" in the Middle East, Gheit told the "PBS Newshour" on US public television.

"We are eager that we do not have a nuclear Iran, as well as we do not want to see a nuclear Israel. We want a zone that is free of nuclear weapons -- and it can be done," he said.

Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but maintains a policy of strategic ambiguity, refusing to confirm or deny its arsenal.

Iran is part of the NPT but Western powers believe it is in violation of the treaty and is pursuing nuclear weapons. The clerical regime insists it is only seeking the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the last minute pulled out of the Washington summit, reportedly out of concern that Arab states and Turkey would shift the focus to Israel and away from its arch-enemy Iran.

Gheit dismissed Netanyahu's concerns, saying that the summit was meant to address nuclear security and not specifically the NPT.

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