US wants Israel, India in nuclear pact

By Louis Charbonneau
Reuters / May 6, 2009
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UNITED NATIONS - India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel should join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the global pact meant to limit the spread of atomic weapons, a senior US official said yesterday.

Speaking on the second day of a two-week meeting of the 189 signatories of the pact, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller also defended a US-India civilian nuclear deal, which developing nations have complained rewards New Delhi for staying outside the treaty.

"Universal adherence to the [treaty] itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea . . . remains a fundamental objective of the United States," Gottemoeller told the meeting, which hopes to agree on an agenda and plan to overhaul the treaty at a review conference next year.

Speaking to reporters later, she declined to say whether Washington would take any new steps to press Israel to join the treaty and give up any nuclear weapons it has. Israel neither confirms nor denies it has what arms control experts assume to be a sizable atomic arsenal.

The administration of President Obama was encouraging all holdouts to join the treaty, she said.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have never signed the treaty. North Korea withdrew from it in 2003 and tested a nuclear device in 2006.

At the meeting, developing countries have criticized the endorsement of the US-India nuclear agreement by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, an informal club of the world's top producers of nuclear technology.

The group agreed in September to lift a ban on nuclear trade with India, imposed after New Delhi's first nuclear test in 1974.

Delegates from poor nations complain that the endorsement was tantamount to rewarding India for remaining outside the treaty and secretly developing nuclear weapons. In contrast, they say, developing states are denied access to sensitive technology because they are often deemed proliferation risks.

Gottemoeller defended the agreement. "India is coming closer to the non-proliferation regime," she said.

She cited India's willingness to work with Washington in pushing for an international treaty that would prohibit the further production of bomb-grade nuclear material and by improving its nuclear export controls.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Hosseini Monday railed against the United States and what he said was its continued nuclear support for the "Zionist regime" [Israel]. Western diplomats called this an attempt to divert attention away from its own nuclear program.

In failing to mention Iran even once in her speech, Gottemoeller broke from a tradition established by the administration of former President George W. Bush, which had used treaty meetings to criticize Iran and North Korea.

Gottemoeller said that Iran came up indirectly in her statement when she spoke of the need for "consequences for those breaking the rules or withdrawing from the treaty."