09/20/2012, 00.00
ISRAEL - IRAN

Denuclearised Middle East: Israel's refusal, Iran's lies

Joshua Lapide
A conference on denuclearisation is set for Helsinki in late 2012. For Israel, it is premature due to the "volatile and hostile situation" in the area. Iran and the European Union hold "constructive" meeting, but Tehran has hidden its programme in the past. Israel is the only nuclear power in the region.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Israel expressed its strong opposition on Wednesday to an Arab initiative, supported by the Obama administration, to hold a conference that would debate the possibility of a nuclear-free Middle East. The conference would take place in Helsinki toward the end of 2012, or early in 2013.

Brig Gen (Res) Shaul Horev, director of the Israeli Nuclear Energy Committee, said that the idea was premature due to the "volatile and hostile situation" in the area. Cited by Haaretz, Horev blames Syria and Iran for the region's difficult situation.

Iran is creating a "hollow impression" that it intends to cooperate, but the international community's moves actually have had no effect on the Iranian nuclear plan.

For Israel and many Western nations, Tehran is building nuclear and enrichment plants to build atomic weapons. Tehran claims that its programme is peaceful.

Iran has pledged to keep its facilities open to the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but in the past, it has concealed some sites and tried to mislead inspections. At present, the two sides are a stalemate.

This has pushed the United States and other countries, including the European Union, to toughen their sanctions against Iran.

Iranian and European officials met in Istanbul recently. The EU said it was "useful and constructive".

An EU spokesman said in a brief statement that it had been "a useful and constructive meeting and an important opportunity to stress once again to Iran the urgent need to make progress".

At present, Israel is the only nuclear power in the region, although it has neither confirmed nor denied its nuclear status.

Its nuclear programme began with French aid and is centred on the Dimona nuclear research facility, in the Negev Desert.

In 1986, a nuclear technician at the plant, Mordechai Vanunu, provided details about Israel's nuclear programme.

For this, he was arrested, tried and sentenced to 18 years in prison. After his release, he lives under important restrictions.

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