The United States said on Tuesday that an Arab push to single out Israel for criticism over its assumed nuclear arsenal would hurt diplomatic efforts to ban weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
Arab states have proposed a resolution at the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressing concern about "Israeli nuclear capabilities", reported Reuters.
The non-binding text submitted for the first time since 2010 to this week's member meeting of the IAEA calls on Israel to join a global anti-nuclear weapons pact and place its atomic facilities under IAEA monitoring.
Israel is widely believed to possess the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, drawing frequent Arab and Iranian condemnation. It has never acknowledged having atomic weapons.
Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, as a result, is not obligated to allow IAEA inspectors into its nuclear facilities, or abide by the international body's mandates regarding plant function.
The U.S. envoy to the IAEA, Joseph Macmanus, told Reuters that Washington is committed to working toward a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems, but the Arab resolution "does not advance our shared goal of progress toward a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.”
"Instead, it undermines efforts at constructive dialogue toward that common objective," Macmanus said in a statement e-mailed to the news agency.
Arab delegations have tried to put attention on the Dimona reactor in southern Israel, which they claim has been "overlooked" by IAEA inspectors for decades.
World powers agreed in 2010 to an Egyptian plan for an international meeting to lay the groundwork for creating a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.
But the United States, one of the big powers to co-sponsor the meeting, said late last year it would not take place as planned last December and did not suggest a new date.
Arab diplomats said they refrained from putting forward their resolution on Israel at the 2011 and 2012 IAEA meetings to boost the chances of the Middle East conference taking place last year but that this had had no effect. A vote on the text may take place on Thursday, one envoy told Reuters.
The Arab League has unsuccessfully tried to convince the U.S. and European nations to join a campaign to end Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity. It has, however, seen some support at the United Nations. A UN resolution passed in 2010 called for a nuclear-free Middle East and singled out Israel for criticism, while ignoring Iran, whose former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad constantly threatened to wipe Israel off the map.