Friday, February 17, 2006

Iran N- Program & US, Israel and Saudis.

— A senior official of the Washington-based Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation has defended Israel’s nuclear program yesterday, saying that it is one of three countries in the region that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“If you are speaking about any double standard, you have to remember that Pakistan, a Muslim country, also possesses nuclear weapons. But we cannot say that the nuclear programs of India, Pakistan and Israel are illegal, because they do not have the treaty obligations,” Stephen G. Rademaker, acting assistant secretary for the bureau told a limited press conference.

Rademaker was in Riyadh as part of his swing through the Middle East to ratchet up pressure on Iran, which has reportedly resumed its nuclear-enrichment program. During his stay, he had talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Assistant to the Minister of Defense and Aviation Gen. Prince Khaled ibn Sultan.

“If you want to say that the US policy is inconsistent vis-à-vis Israel, you also have to say that US policy is inconsistent toward Pakistan. At the same time, both are major non-NATO allies of the US and also recipients of the US aid,” said Rademaker in response to allegations that the US has a double standard with respect to Israel’s nuclear arsenal and Iran’s potential N-weapons capabilities.

According to the US-based non-profit Center for Defense Information, Israel is estimated to have 100 to 200 warheads; India is suspected of having at least 60 warheads; and Pakistan has 24-48 warheads.

“Iran’s nuclear program is not just a threat to the United States or Israel. I don’t know why the Arab world continues to believe that Iran will only use its nuclear weapons against Israel,” he said.

Rademaker said the US policy has been consistent all along. “We want India, Pakistan and Israel to sign up to the NPT. In all three cases, they have resisted our advice,” he said. “We would like every country in the world to join the NPT.”

He added that the best way to encourage Israel to join the treaty is not to support more Arab states to go nuclear. “You want to persuade Israel to give up its nuclear weapons, while you allow Iran to go for the nuclear option. This is a wrong way to approach the issue,” he said.

“Today Iran is giving Israel the best possible reason not to give up its nuclear weapons. Moreover, Iran’s president wants Israel to be erased from the map.”

The US official claimed that Iran was close to having nuclear weapons. In this context, he referred to the concern that the 27 members of the 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board meeting expressed recently over Iran’s nuclear program.

“This is profoundly threatening under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said. “Iran is not the Netherlands or Japan. In other words, it cannot be trusted given its record of nuclear activity.”


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