"Israel regards itself as still greatly threatened and at war with many of its neighbours," says Dan Plesch, a senior associate at the Foreign Policy Centre, "so Israel regards itself as needing to have an ambiguity about it’s nuclear policy to protect itself and many of its allies particularly in the West agree with that position."

So some critics see double standards at work.

Israel’s nuclear programme started in the early 1950s and though it never acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons, it is believed to have the world’s sixth largest stockpile of atomic armaments.

Iran’s nuclear programme started in earnest in the mid 1970s, and continued under the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

Today the Iranians continue to deny any intention of building nuclear weapons.

Many countries simply don’t believe them and the UN security council may be on the verge of imposing even tougher sanctions on the iranians for refusing to halt their uranium enrichment programme.

"The fact is that we are perfectly happy to help iran acquire civilian nuclear power," said Tony Snow, spokesman for the White House.

"We are not however – and the international community has made it clear that iran should not be in a position to develop or possess nuclear weapons," he said.

Iran is a signatory to the non proliferation treaty which allows for a civil nuclear programme that must be inspected.

Israel is not a signatory to the treaty which is why its Dimona nuclear plant has never been visited by nuclear inspectors.

So secret was its program that Israeli scientist Mordechai Vanunu was imprisoned for 18 years – 11 of them in solitary confinement, for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear programme.

Israel has, in the past, used its air power to strike and destroy the nuclear facilities of its neighbors, as in the case of Iraq in 1981.

"Israel is a democracy, israel doesn’t threaten any country with anything, never did," said Ehud Olmert in December 2006.

"The most that we tried to get for ourselves is to be able to live without terror, but we never threatened any nation with annihilation.

"Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons as America, France, Israel, Russia."

That public admission – however indirect – continues to fuel claims of double standards from many countries in the Middle East.