|Report: U.S. in talks to declare Mideast nuclear-free zone|
|By Haaretz Service|
U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal that the move could be a significant step toward showing that Washington, who is often criticized of overlooking Israel's reported nuclear arsenal, could be even handed in its attempt to ensure the Middle East is free of nuclear weapons.
"We've made a proposal to them [Egypt] that goes beyond what the U.S. has been willing to do before," senior U.S. officials told the WSJ, adding that they didn't believe that would happen without first achieving major advances in Arab-Israeli peace talks.
Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security told the WSJ that Washington was "concerned that the conditions are not right unless all members of the region participate, which would be unlikely unless there is a comprehensive peace plan which is accepted,"
Tauscher added that Washington had already discussed the possibility of creating such a nuclear-free zone with the Arab League and other members of the Nonaligned Movement.
Egypt and other Arab states have been demanding that any final declaration that might come out of the month-long UN nuclear nonproliferation conference planned to open on Monday would include the call for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
Israel is widely believed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal although it has not acknowledged it.
Egypt is also demanding the convening of an international conference next year with Israel's participation to discuss that issue. Diplomats have said the United States and Russia are trying to find a way to satisfy Egypt's demands.
Many NPT signatories would also like the review conference to call for universality of the treaty - meaning that Israel, Pakistan and India should be pressured to sign and get rid of any warheads they have. North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.
Senior Obama administration officials told the WSJ Saturday that Washington would support a conference such as the one demanded by Egypt at a future date, saying that talks with Egypt on the subject would resume on the sidelines of this month's UN conference in New York