Israel says it will not attend a conference on creating a nuclear-free Middle East, which is scheduled for December in Finland, despite Tel Aviv's reputation as the region’s sole wielder of nuclear arsenals. The head of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) announced the decision, claiming that the situation in the Middle East was not yet "conducive" to the creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone, AFP reported Thursday.
"The concept of a region free of weapons of mass destruction, that has never been put to the test, even in the most peaceful regions of the world, is certainly much less applicable to the current volatile and hostile Middle East," Shaul Horev told a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Wednesday."Such a process can only be launched when peaceful relations exist for a reasonable period of time in the region," Horev stated, insisting that the drive for a nuclear weapons-free Mideast must come from within the region, and "cannot be imposed from outside." Earlier this year, Finnish representatives held talks with Israeli leaders to convince TEl Aviv to attend the meeting. Israel, which has pursued a policy of ambiguity over its military nuclear program with the help of the United States, is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which governs and restricts the development of nuclear technology. Israel is widely known possesses 300 to 400 nuclear warheads, 80 of which remain in high operational alert, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, that is, they are ready to fire. MRS/JR