Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons capability but has not signed major agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear arms.

"What surprises us is that at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency is intensifying its efforts and monitoring (NPT) members countries ... we see that it continues to ignore the rejection of Israel in not joining the treaty," Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Monday. 

"This constitutes a serious threat to the security and stability of the whole region," he told the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Iran pressure

Under US pressure, the IAEA - the UN nuclear watchdog - has given Iran until 31 October to prove Tehran's claim it has no intention of developing nuclear arms and it merely hopes to use nuclear technology to produce electricity.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said: "It is unacceptable that Israel's possession of such weapons should remain a reality that some prefer to ignore or prevent the international community ... from facing it squarely and frankly."

"Some quarters selectively choose to level their false accusations at some Arab and Islamic states... while simultaneously ignoring the Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons"

Farouq al-Shara,
Syrian foreign minister
 

Syria, accused by the United States of developing chemical and biological arms, took aim at both Washington and Israel.

Hypocricy

Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara noted that "a lot has been said lately about the dangers of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by countries that already have different types of such weapons."

"Some have even waged war under the pretext of eliminating these weapons," he said in an apparent reference to the United States and its war to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Shara called it "regrettable... that some quarters selectively choose to level their false accusations at some Arab and Islamic states but not on others, while simultaneously ignoring the Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons".

However, the Arab ministers repeated their support for making the Middle East region free from all weapons of mass destruction.

Israel maintains an ambiguity about its weapons programmes but is believed to have between 100-200 nuclear weapons, a stockpile of chemical weapons and an active biological arms programme.