U.N. Stymied on Mideast Nukes

VIENNA (Reuters) -

U.N. atomic agency chief Yukiya Amano has not been able to narrow Israeli-Arab differences on how to move towards a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, but will keep trying, according to a report by his office.

Discussions with officials from the region have shown that there continues to be a “fundamental difference of views” between Israel and the other Middle East countries, it said.

The report was prepared by Amano’s International Atomic Energy Agency ahead of an annual meeting next month of the IAEA’s 159 member states.

An Egyptian plan for an international meeting to lay the groundwork for creating a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction — including nuclear arms — was agreed to at an NPT review conference in 2010.

But the United States, a co-sponsor along with Britain and Russia, said last year that the conference would not occur as planned in December 2012, and did not make clear when, or whether, it would take place.

U.S. and Israeli officials have said a nuclear arms-free Middle East cannot become reality unless there is broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran curbs its nuclear program.