Nuclear watchdog chief to visit Israel

UN nuclear watchdog chief Muhammad al-Baradai, who has called for Israel to dismantle a nuclear arsenal it has never admitted possessing, is expected to visit the country in July.

    Al-Baradai has called on Israel to dismantle its nuclear arsenal

    "This is a routine visit that has been in the works for months. We expect Mr al-Baradai to visit Israel in the summer, probably early July," Gabriella Gafni, Israel's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters on Wednesday. 

    She declined to give details on the agenda of the planned visit. The IAEA was not immediately available for comment. 

    Gafni reiterated that Israel's policy was to "neither deny nor confirm" that it had nuclear weapons. She said this policy would "not change in the very near future".

    After meeting Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom last November, al-Baradai hinted Israel should sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and thus open up its atomic sites to international inspections. 

    Israeli ambiguity

    Israel has never signed the NPT and under a policy of "strategic ambiguity" neither confirms nor denies pursuing weapons of mass destruction. 

    "This is a routine visit that has been in the works for months"

    Gabriella Gafni,
    Israel's representative to IAEA

    Non-proliferation analysts estimate Israel has an arsenal of hundreds of nuclear weapons. 

    Arab countries which are members of the IAEA have complained that Israel's alleged nuclear weapons programme is not being investigated, at a time when countries like Iran are under intense scrutiny from the UN agency. 

    The United Nations General Assembly and IAEA General Conference have adopted 13 resolutions since 1987, appealing to Israel to sign the NPT. All have been ignored.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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