The United States said on Tuesday that an Arab lobby to single out Israel over its nuclear arsenal would harm diplomatic efforts to ban weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.
Arab states have proposed a resolution to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressing concern about "Israel's nuclear capabilities". The Arab states are frustrated over the postponement of an international conference on ridding the region from WMD.
The non-binding resolution was submitted to the IAEA this week. This is the first time the issue has been raised since 2010 when Israel was called on to join to a global anti-weapons pact and to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA monitoring.
Israel is widely believed to posses the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, drawing frequent condemnations from Arab states and Iran. Israel has never admitted to possessing nuclear weapons.
US and Israeli officials, who consider Iran's nuclear ambitions to be the main nuclear proliferation threat, stress that efforts to create a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Middle East can only be achieved with a broad Arab-Israeli peace treaty and with curbing Iran's nuclear program.
According to Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post, US envoy to the IAEA Joseph MacManus said that Washington is committed to working toward a Middle East zone free of WMD and their delivery systems.
However, MacManus said in comments emailed to Reuters that the Arab resolution "does not advance our shared goal of progress toward a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Instead, it undermines efforts to engage in a constructive dialogue towards this goal."
World powers agreed in 2010 to an Egyptian initiative to hold an international meeting to rid the Middle East from WMDs. However, the US, one of world powers set to co-sponsor the meeting, refused to hold the meeting as scheduled in December of last year and did not propose a new date.
Arab diplomats explained that they had postponed the submission of their resolution at IAEA meetings throughout 2011 and 2012 to support the chances of the Middle East conference.
However, their initiative was ineffective. An envoy said that the vote on the resolution might take place on Thursday.