Israel seen undermining disarmament - ElBaradei

BERLIN Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:06pm IST

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei is seen at the World Economic Forum in Davos January 29, 2009 file photo. A perception among Arab nations that Israel has undermined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a major obstacle to global nuclear disarmament, ElBaradei said on Monday. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/Files

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei is seen at the World Economic Forum in Davos January 29, 2009 file photo. A perception among Arab nations that Israel has undermined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a major obstacle to global nuclear disarmament, ElBaradei said on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann/Files

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BERLIN (Reuters) - A perception among Arab nations that Israel has undermined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a major obstacle to global nuclear disarmament, head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said on Monday.

Tensions within the IAEA run deep over Israel's presumed nuclear might and its shunning of the NPT. Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal but it has never confirmed or denied it.

In an article for the International Herald Tribune, Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, set out what he thought should be done to achieve consensus on nuclear disarmament.

"What compounds the problem is that the nuclear non-proliferation regime has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of Arab public opinion because of the perceived double-standards concerning Israel, the only state in the region outside the NPT and known to possess nuclear weapons," he wrote.

ElBaradei also reiterated he was encouraged by new U.S. President Barack Obama's commitment to making the elimination of all nuclear weapons a central part of his policy platform.

To do that, nations have to overcome cynical attitudes to the United Nations, he said.

"The U.N. and related agencies must be given adequate authority and funding and put in the hands of leaders who have vision, courage and credibility," wrote ElBaradei.

In a broadside against the United States and Israel, he said: "Above all, we need to halt the glaring breach of core principles of international law such as limitations on the unilateral use of force, proportionality in self-defence and the protection of civilians during hostilities in order to avoid a repeat of the civilian carnage in Iraq and, most recently, in Gaza."

ElBaradei, who is due to leave office in November when his third term expires, clashed with the former Bush administration over what he saw as its unilateralism and refusal to engage with foes like Iran.

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