Countries Agree to Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone in Mideast

BY Larisa Epatko  May 28, 2010 at 6:30 PM EDT

The 189 nations participating in a month-long conference to review the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty agreed on the final day Friday to work toward a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

The 28-page final document calls for holding a conference in 2012 attended by all countries in the Middle East, leading to the creation of a nuclear-free zone.

It also states “the importance of Israel’s accession to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards,” reported Agence France-Presse.

Iran and Egypt have led calls for Israel to join the treaty. Israel has never acknowledged having nuclear weapons.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher told the conference that Washington would work with countries in the Middle East toward organizing the 2012 conference, but that the U.S. ability to do so “has been seriously jeopardized because the final document (approved by treaty signatories) singles out Israel in the Middle East section, a fact that the United States deeply regrets.”

Under the NPT, signatory countries without nuclear weapons agree not to acquire them, nations with them agree to work toward their elimination, and all endorse the right to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

Also under Friday’s deal, the five recognized countries with nuclear weapons — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — agreed to speed up atomic weaponry reduction and report on their progress in 2014, ahead of the next NPT conference in 2015.

The NPT conference is called every five years to review and advance the objectives of the treaty.