Members of the International Atomic Energy Agency have called on Middle Eastern nations to take steps towards establishing a region free of nuclear weapons.
Delegates at the nuclear watchdog's annual general conference in Vienna on Saturday, Oct. 4, adopted a resolution calling on all states in the region to accept IAEA inspections, and to accede and adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which bans the development of nuclear arms.
After two days of contentious discussions between Arab and Western countries over the wording of the resolution, 82 nations voted in favor, none against and 13 -- including the United States and Israel -- abstained.
Pending the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons, countries should not "develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons," the resolution said.
Israel is the only country in the region that is not a signatory to the NPT and therefore accepts only limited IAEA inspections. Its government is believed to have atomic weapons, but it neither confirms nor denies its military nuclear capacity as a matter of national policy.
On Israel's initiative, the conference also added an indirect reference to Iran and Syria to the resolution, calling on states in the region to comply with their obligations on cooperating with IAEA inspections.
Inconclusive nuclear reports from Iran, Syria
The IAEA has received intelligence from various countries indicating Iran might have been involved in nuclear weapons research in the past. Tehran asserts it was never involved in military nuclear work.
In June, agency inspectors began probing a Syrian site alleged to have been a secret nuclear reactor under construction. After Israel bombed the facility last year, the US provided the IAEA with intelligence that started the investigation.
The inspector's first investigations are still inconclusive. Damascus maintains the site was a civilian nuclear facility.
A separate draft resolution by Arab countries expressing concern about Israel's nuclear capabilities narrowly escaped a vote, as a slight majority of mostly western IAEA members opposed taking such a decision.
In past years, attempts to have such a resolution adopted also failed.
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