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IAEA meeting to discuss Israel
Israel's nuclear capability to be discussed in IAEA after a push by Arab nations.
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2010 19:57 GMT
Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has never confirmed or denied it [AFP]

The United Nations nuclear agency is expected to discuss Israel's nuclear capabilities at its board of governors meeting in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

It is the first time since 1991 that Israel's nuclear issue is included in the five-day meeting of the International Atomic Engery Agency (IAEA), which began on Monday.

Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher, reporting from Vienna, said an 18-country bloc led by the Arab nations had been pushing for the discussion.

"It's regarded as a bit of a coup that they managed after 19 years of trying to get a discussion about Israel's nuclear capability," he said.

"It's on the agenda and will be discussed at some point during the next two or three days."

Israel, widely believed to have nuclear weapons, has neither denied or acknowledged the claim.

Iran reaction

Iran, which itself is under scrutinity from the IAEA over its nuclear programme, welcomed the coming discussion.

"US, Canada and European Union preferred not to discuss Israel's nuclear capability, but they joined the consensus because they had no other choice," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said.

in depth

 

  Focus: IAEA turns it attention to Israel
  Video: Israel's 'nuclear arsenal'
  Riz Khan: Nuclear double standard
  Opinion: Iran in arms race with Israel

Yukiya Amano, the IAEA director-general, recently asked member states for ideas on how to persuade Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and accept IAEA inspections.

On Monday, Amano said he had received replies from 17 governments out of a total 151 so far.

Meanwhile, Amano deflected Iranian calls for the IAEA to treat Israel's alleged nuclear work with the same scrutiny as it applies to Iran.

But Amano said Tehran's failure to dispel fears over its intentions made it a "special case" and that the agency could not inspect Israel in the same way until Israel signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Iran is a special case because, among other things, of the existence of issues related to possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme," Amano said, opening the meeting of the 35-nation board of governors.

Western powers believe Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, claims which Tehran has repeatedly denied.

Amano also said he was waiting for a response from big powers on a plan for Iran to part with some of its nuclear material in return for fuel rods for a medical research reactor.

Western officials have made clear that they are unsure about the latest plan, brokered by Turkey and Brazil, which comes eight months after a similar idea to ease nuclear tensions was outlined with the help of the IAEA.

Amano said things had changed since the IAEA made its offer, with Iran starting higher-grade nuclear enrichment and the fact that its low-enriched uranium stockpile had doubled in size.

The UN Security Council is expected to vote on new Iran sanctions this week.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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