A general conference of the 139-nation International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday in Vienna also unanimously passed a resolution welcoming North Korea's agreement to abandon nuclear weapons and called upon Pyongyang to let IAEA inspectors back into the country.
The IAEA conference rejected discussion of "Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat," as proposed in a resolution by Oman, despite a strong push for this by 15 Arab states plus Palestine.
Israel welcomed the idea of such a zone but said it advocates "achieving regional peace and security not arms control per se," in comments by Israeli atomic energy chief Gideon Frank.
Egyptian ambassador Ramzy Ezzeldeiin Ramzy told the IAEA conference that the resolution on a NWFZ invites Israel, believed to be the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East, "to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to accept that its various facilities be subject to the IAEA safeguards system."
Israel has not signed the NPT and neither confirms nor denies reports that it has some 200 atom bombs.
Frank said that while Israel felt a NWFZ "could eventually serve as a complement to overall efforts to peace and security in the region" the Jewish state wanted a general peace agreement first in the Middle East.
The IAEA welcomed Pyongyang's
decision to abandon N-weapons
Frank said Israeli actions, such as its withdrawal from Gaza, had created a "window of opportunity to advancing peace and security in the region."
Confidence-building, as in creating a nuclear-weapons-free zone, "is a long and enduring process," Frank said.
Friday's conference session was put off for hours as diplomats haggled behind closed doors.
Arab states resent the fact that the IAEA is cracking down on Iran for what the United States charges is a covert nuclear weapons program while US ally Israel avoids such scrutiny.
The agenda item was put off until next year as part of a compromise that has taken place annually since 1998 in which Arab states drop this agenda request in order to win Israeli participation in a consensus on the call for a NWFZ.
Emotions were high, however, this year after the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors last week found Iran guilty of violating the NPT and threatened to take Tehran to the UN Security Council, which could impose trade sanctions.
Emotions ran high over IAEA
threat to take Iran to UN council
The North Korea resolution welcomed the six-party agreement September 19 in Beijing "which accomplished positive progress by taking a first step toward the goal of the verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner."
The IAEA looks forward to new talks in November and "calls upon the DPRK to cooperate with the agency in the full and effective implementation of comprehensive IAEA safeguards," the resolution said.
It was a compromise between the United States and China, with US officials seeking a neutral text that would not worsen problems that have cropped up in the six-party talks.