Egypt wants talks over nuclear-free Mideast zone

© AFP/File Cris Bouroncle

NICOSIA (AFP) – Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on Thursday that his government was in talks with the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council on proposals for a nuclear-free Middle East.

“We have to have a conference, an international conference, whereby the nuclear powers, as well as the regional countries, would meet and discuss how to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons,” Abul Gheit told reporters on a visit to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

“We are in discussions right now in the UN with the Americans, with the Russians, with the P-5 — the permanent members of the Security Council — and hopefully we would agree on terms of reference, on how to agree to establish that conference and when to meet, how to meet, who would be calling for that conference and how to pursue the issue in the immediate future,” he said.

Egypt is leading non-aligned nations in a push to convene a conference next year on turning the Middle East into a zone free of nuclear weapons.

The non-aligned states also want Israel, which is believed to have some 200 nuclear warheads, officially to declare its arsenal and then join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in order to disarm.

Israel says it will consider joining a nuclear weapon-free zone, but only after there is a peace agreement in the Middle East. That position is supported by the United States.