– World’s worst nuclear offender gets another pass –
By Jonathan Tirone
September 06, 2010 (Bloomberg) -Sept, 03, 2010– United Nations investigators, ordered to write a report about Israel’s atomic capabilities, said they couldn’t compile enough information to assess the extent of the country’s nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency released documents today showing a split between member countries who want more light shed on Israel’s nuclear work and others that say the Vienna-based organization doesn’t have the right to pry. The IAEA’s 151 members voted in September 2009 to have the agency review Israel’s program as part of an effort to create a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East.
Israel declined to cooperate with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s inquiry on “political and legal” grounds, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a July 26 letter among the 81 pages of documents, calling the probe “unjustified.” Amano asked Israel to consider signing the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty when he visited the country last month.
Countries including Canada, the U.K. and U.S. opposed the probe, saying that the inquiry risked turning the IAEA into a political battleground, according to the documents. Others, including China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey, supported the investigation. Divisions over Israel will be discussed at the IAEA’s annual General Conference which convenes Sept. 20 in the Austrian capital, according to a provisional agenda of the meeting.
Israel has refused to open its nuclear facility in Dimona to UN inspectors. It says the site is a research facility. IAEA inspectors make routine checks, aimed at preventing the removal of atomic bomb-making material, from Israel’s Soreq Nuclear Research Center.
While Israel has never acknowledged having atomic weapons, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington- based policy study group, estimates that the Jewish state possesses enough material for between 100 and 170 weapons.