04/09/2010, 00.00
ISRAEL
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Netanyahu cancels US trip over Israel’s nuclear programme

Egypt and Turkey are set to raise the issue of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and ask for its signature on the non-proliferation treaty at the upcoming Washington nuclear security summit. Backed by the United States, Israel has pursued a policy of “nuclear opacity” since the 1960s. Muslim countries fear the nuclear programme of Israel and Iran.
Tel Aviv (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his visit to Washington for the nuclear security summit conference. The decision was announced early this morning and was made after it became apparent that Egypt, Turkey and other countries intended to raise the issue of Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal. More than 40 nations are expected to be in the US capital for the two-day conference to discuss ways to limit the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists.

“The prime minister has decided to cancel his trip to Washington to attend the nuclear conference next week, after learning that some countries including Egypt and Turkey plan to say Israel must sign the NPT,” Reuters quoted an Israeli official as saying.

Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor would instead lead the Israeli delegation.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty has been signed by 189 countries, including all Arab countries. Only Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have refused to sign. Israel has maintained a policy of deliberate ambiguity since it has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapon, but is widely believed to have a big nuclear arsenal.

In accordance with an agreement reached with the United States in the late 1960s, Israel can develop nuclear weapons on condition it does not admit it officially, maintaining a policy of so-called “nuclear opacity”. Everyone would know that Israel had nuclear weapons, a topic covered in many books, articles and websites, but the Israeli government would not officially acknowledge it.

One victim of Israel’s nuclear programme is Mordechai Vanunu, a Christian convert and a nuclear technician who spent 18 years in prison for going public with Israel’s nuclear secrets.

Many Muslim countries are concerned about the nuclear programmes of Israel and Iran and have called for a nuclear-free Middle East.

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