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Last Updated: Friday, 12 December, 2003, 12:01 GMT
'Scrap nuclear arms' Israel urged
Mohamed ElBaradei
ElBaradei: IAEA assumes Israel has nuclear weapons
The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has urged Israel to surrender its alleged nuclear weapons in order to further peace in the Middle East.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei told an Israeli newspaper such weapons were not "an incentive for security".

He also said Israel should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Israel has never confirmed being a nuclear power, but is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.

Need for dialogue

In his first interview with an Israeli newspaper, Mr ElBaradei told Haaretz the IAEA operated under the assumption that Israel had nuclear weapons despite the fact it had never been officially confirmed.

He warned that the belief Israel was safer because it possessed such weapons was false, as other Middle Eastern countries felt threatened by their presence.

"Frankly, I am not happy with the status quo, because I see a lot of frustration in the Middle East due to Israel's sitting on nuclear weapons or [its] nuclear weapons capability, while other parties in the Middle East are committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty," he said.

Mr ElBaradei added that Israel and its neighbours should enter dialogue to halt the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

"My fear is that, without such a dialogue, there will be continued incentive for the region's countries to develop weapons of mass destruction to match the Israeli arsenal," he said.

BBC correspondent James Reynolds says the Egyptian-born IAEA chief's careful remarks reflected his awareness that many Israelis see him not as a disinterested observer, but rather as a citizen of a one-time enemy of Israel.

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