Undeclared nuclear power Israel on Saturday denounced the "hypocrisy" of a UN call for a nuclear-free Middle East that singled it out but ignored Iran, which is suspected of seeking the bomb and which welcomed the document.
"This accord has the hallmark of hypocrisy. Only Israel is mentioned, while the text is silent about other countries like India, Pakistan and North Korea, which have nuclear arms, or even more seriously, Iran, which is seeking to obtain them," a senior government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "The fact that no reference is made to Iran is even more shocking, given that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has disclosed more and more information in recent months on the military character of Iranian nuclear projects," the official added.
Separately, an unnamed senior official was quoted on public radio as saying the decision was a "negative change for Israel," but also expressing doubt that it would lead to anything concrete.
In New York on Friday, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's 189 signatory nations proposed new steps towards disarmament and making the Middle East free of atomic weapons.
Diplomats approved a document that laid out action plans on the three pillars of the treaty -- disarmament, non-proliferation and promoting peaceful atomic energy.
The NPT called on Israel to join the treaty, which would oblige the Jewish state to do away with the nuclear weapons it is widely believed to have but does not acknowledge.
It mentioned the importance of Israel's accession to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards.
US President Barack Obama welcomed the statement as strengthening "the global non-proliferation regime," but said he "strongly" opposed singling out Israel.
Iran's IAEA representative Ali Asghar Soltanieh told state news agency IRNA that the United States, despite opposing the text on Israel, would have to fall in line with other countries. "The US reservation is symbolic and it is obliged to go along with the world's request, which is that Israel must join the NPT and open its installations to IAEA inspectors," he said.
The United States and other countries suspect Iran of using its nuclear energy programme as a cover for building an atomic weapon, a charge Tehran denies.
They are continuing efforts to impose a fourth set of UN sanctions on Iran for continuing to enrich uranium, a process that can produce nuclear fuel but in more refined form can provide the fissile core for a bomb.
"The greatest threat to proliferation in the Middle East, and to the NPT, is Iran's failure to live up to its NPT obligations," Obama said. Soltanieh dismissed the US leader's stance. "Of course this was to be expected, since (US Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton made such (statements) during the inaugural session (of the NPT meeting) and several times later," he said.
"The Americans are isolating themselves, since Iran's nuclear file is an (IAEA) agency issue. This conference was about the NPT and its future." The document came after a month of deliberations that looked set to fail until almost the very last hour, with Israel's arch-foe Iran seeking tougher anti-Israeli language.
Soltanieh, whom many feared would veto the consensus text, said that despite its (limited( nature, the final statement was (a step forward... towards our common goal of nuclear disarmament.
The wording on the Middle East called for a conference in 2012 "to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment( of such a nuclear-weapons-free zone.
Washington vowed on Friday to work for a successful meeting in 2012. It would be a one-time-only conference, with any follow-up dependent on agreement by all the parties.
Israel opposes creating a nuclear weapons-free zone until Middle East peace has been achieved. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Washington for talks with Obama next week, and an Israeli official quoted by public radio on Saturday said the NPT question will be on the agenda.
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