N-treaty talks on brink of failure


Talks on shoring up the global anti-nuclear arms treaty were on the edge of failure on Friday as the United States and its allies clashed with Egypt over a push to pressure Israel to scrap any atom bombs it has.
For a month the 189 signatories of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have been meeting in New York in hopes of agreeing on a plan to shore up the troubled pact, which analysts say has been hit by Iran’s and North Korea’s atomic programmes and failure by the nuclear powers to disarm. The latest draft of a final declaration for the NPT review conference calls for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organise a meeting of all West Asian states in 2012 on how to make the region free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as demanded by a 1995 NPT resolution. The creation of a WMD-free zone would eventually force Israel to abandon any atomic bombs it has.
The Jewish state, which like nuclear-armed India and Pakistan never signed the NPT, is presumed to have a sizeable nuclear arsenal but neither confirms nor denies it. Israel is not participating in the NPT meeting.
In a radical departure from the previous US administration, President Barack Obama’s negotiators had agreed to join the NPT’s other four official nuclear powers — Britain, France, Russia and China — in backing such a conference while encouraging reluctant Israel to participate. The five permanent UNSC members and a group of Arab states led by Egypt are close to a deal that would make the 2012 conference happen, delegates say. But the two sides have reached an impasse on the question of whether Israel should be named in the declaration as a problem state. The Egyptians insist the declaration must state explicitly that Israel should join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state, but the Americans are refusing, diplomats said. One Western diplomat familiar with the talks described the situation as “not looking too hopeful.” He said there was a “stark choice for the Arabs — name and shame Israel or have a conference in 2012 to move forward the 1995 promise ... toward a WMD-free zone in West Asia.”
“My bet is their (the Arabs’) short-term political needs will trump their long-term strategic interest,” he said. Other delegates confirmed the possibility that the NPT review conference would fail to agree on a final declaration because of disagreements on West Asia question, repeating what happened at the last NPT review conference in 2005.
But diplomats said they hoped the US and Egypt would strike a last-minute compromise that salvaged the conference.

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