Egypt pushes for nuclear-free region

Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures to the audience during a session on nuclear non-proliferation at the UN in New York this week

Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures to the audience during a session on nuclear non-proliferation at the UN in New York this week

Israeli officials have played down reports that the Obama administration will support an Egyptian plan to force Israel to disclose details of its nuclear arsenal and commit to disarmament, as part of its global strategy to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

There has been no confirmation of this from official administration sources and a very senior Israeli official said that "we have received no signal at all from the Americans on this".

The official said that Israel had received assurances from the administration that there were currently no plans whatsoever to change the policy towards Israel's nuclear capability. The official view in Jerusalem is that while the Americans are in favour of reducing nuclear weapons worldwide, the statements regarding the Middle East are merely "wishes for the far future", but not a change in policy towards Israel.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a United Nations session on nuclear non-proliferation that the US is in favour of a Middle East without nuclear arms. But she did not mention Israel and focused on Iran's efforts to achieve military nuclear capability.

For over 40 years, Israel has pursued a policy of "nuclear ambiguity" with full cooperation from successive American administrations. Israel does not disclose its nuclear capability and states simply that "Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region". Despite this, analysts outside Israel widely maintain that Israel has a sizable nuclear arsenal. And although it has a peace treaty with Israel, Egypt has been trying for over a decade to generate international pressure on Israel on the nuclear issue. The matter did not come up in the meetings between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Hosni Mubarak on Monday, which were described as "good". However, Mr Netanyahu's National Security Advisor, Uzi Arad, told Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu-Gheit that Israel objected to Egypt's actions against Israel regarding nuclear weapons.

"There is nothing new here, Egypt has been trying to pressure us on this for a long time," said one Israeli official. "the last thing we want to do is to make a big issue out of it."

    Last updated: 2:57pm, May 6 2010