Thursday, September 23, 2004

Israel demands change to IAEA resolution, threatens boycott

Israel has threatened to boycott an international conference on a nuclear free Middle East sponsored by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) if a resolution calling Israel a nuclear threat is not removed from the agenda.

The conference, scheduled for January 2005, will be attended by representatives from several Middle Eastern countries including Iran, as well as non-government organizations and a number of independent experts.

The conference, which has no binding powers and is characterized as an 'academic seminar' last met in 1997 and in 1993. IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei discussed Israel's possible participation in the forthcoming conference. He was in Israel a few months ago and met Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the director of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, Gideon Frank.

In a speech to the IAEA's general conference, meeting this week in Vienna, Frank yesterday said Israel would take part in the January conference only if an Arab resolution submitted to the general conference was removed - it refers to Israel's nuclear 'capabilities and threats.' This draft is submitted yearly by the Arab bloc but has always been removed after pressure from Israel, the U.S. and other countries.

If the resolution is removed, Israel says it will vote for another more general resolution, passed in previous years, which speaks of the IAEA's efforts to extend nuclear monitoring to the Middle East."