World Bulletin / News Desk
Arab states said on Thursday they had decided as a "goodwill gesture" not to mention nuclear weapons of Israel in a resolution at the U.N. atomic agency's annual assembly this week.
Most experts estimate that Israel has at least between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads.
Arab envoys said the move was in support of wider efforts to rid the region of nuclear weapons, but it drew no public praise from Israel or the United States.
Israeli ambassador Ehud Azoulay said: "It is Iran which represents the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East and beyond ... Pointing an accusing finger toward Israel will not change this sombre reality."
Arab states had sharply criticised Israel but said they would not put forward a non-binding but symbolically important resolution calling on Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and place all its atomic sites under IAEA oversight.
They said this was decided so as not to undermine an Egyptian-proposed conference later this year to discuss the creation of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
Nuclear-armed Israel outside NPT
Russia welcomed what it described as a constructive signal by Arab states ahead of the meeting which may be held in Helsinki in December.
Even if it does go ahead - Israel has yet to say whether it will attend.
Israel has drawn frequent condemnation over its nuclear arsenal, and it is the only regional state not to belong to NPT, a 1970 pact set up to prevent the spread of atomic arms in the world.
Israel's "clandestine nuclear activities seriously threaten regional peace and security", Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the 155-nation IAEA assembly.
Arab states scored a diplomatic victory in 2009 when IAEA members endorsed their resolution on Israel. It was defeated in 2010 after a bruising diplomatic battle and was not submitted last year.
As in previous years, the IAEA conference adopted with a wide majority an Egyptian-proposed resolution calling on all Middle East states to join the NPT, but without mentioning Israel by name.
Israel and the United States were among eight countries that abstained, while 111 states backed it.
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