May 6, 2009 / 7:12 AM / 10 years ago

Israel brushes off call to sign nuclear arms pact

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli official on Wednesday criticized a U.S. call to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as hard to understand, citing the pact’s failure to prevent countries from obtaining atomic arms.

“It is therefore hard to understand why there should be such an insistence on a treaty that has proven its inefficiency,” a senior official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller urged Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea to join the treaty.

Israel does not confirm or deny foreign reports it has what arms control experts assume to be a sizeable atomic arsenal.

Gottemoeller said Tuesday, the second day of a two-week meeting at the United Nations of the 189 signatories of the global pact, that “universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea ... remains a fundamental objective of the United States.”

She did not say whether Washington planned new steps to press Israel on the issue.

The Israeli official told Reuters the treaty had not stopped Israeli adversaries such as Iraq and Libya from trying to obtain nuclear potential, adding that “its effects on Iran have (also) failed to meet the eye.”

Israel and the West regard Iran’s nuclear program as a potential threat, although Tehran insists its purpose is to produce nuclear energy.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; editing by Andrew Dobbie

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