Israel has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons. However, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a US-based think-tank, estimates Israel has from 100 to 200 nuclear bombs.

   

The Arab League on Wednesday submitted a draft resolution to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference, an annual meeting of all 137 IAEA states, calling on Israel to sign the NPT and open up its nuclear programme to UN inspections.

 

Tensions

   

Oman's ambassador to the IAEA Salim M. Al-Riyami said tensions in the Middle East, the North Korean crisis, the war in Iraq and fears about Iran's nuclear programme have boosted support for Arab calls to push the IAEA to get tough with Israel.

   

"With what happened this year, I think the world is more keen to see the region of the Middle East, North Korea - and what is happening now in Iran and Iraq - I think it's time to deal with this issue more substantively than before," he said.

   

Al-Ryami, speaking on behalf of the Arab League, said it was unfair that countries were getting tough with Iran, which Washington says has a secret nuclear weapons programme, while ignoring Israel's weapons.

   

"I think in the Arab region, people do think that there is a double standard regarding the countries and how (their nuclear programmes) should be tackled," he said.

 

"I think in the Arab region, people do think that there is a double standard regarding the countries and how [their nuclear programmes] should be tackled"

Salim M. Al-Riyami
Oman's Ambassador to IAEA

Referring to Friday's US-backed resolution giving Iran until 31 October to enable the IAEA to verify it has no weapons programme, Al-Riyami said the same should be done for Israel.

   

"The minimum is that Israel could sign the NPT," he concluded. "All the countries in the region have signed it."

   

The UN General Assembly and IAEA General Conference have adopted 13 resolutions since 1987 with the same appeal to Israel and all of them have been ignored. It was unclear how many votes Wednesday's Arab League draft resolution would get.

   

The head of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, Gideon Frank, dismissed the Arab League effort in a speech to the conference.  "We see no factual basis for this draft resolution," he said and urged member states not to support it.