U.N. Nuclear Assembly Rejects Arab Bid to Pressure Israel

VIENNA (Reuters) -

Member states of the U.N. nuclear agency on Thursday rejected an Arab resolution targeting Israel over its assumed atomic arsenal, in a diplomatic victory for Israel and Western countries opposing the initiative.

Arab states had submitted the non-binding text — which called on Israel to join a global anti-nuclear weapons pact — to the annual meeting of the 162-nation International Atomic Energy Agency.

The U.S. and its allies argued that the resolution would have been counterproductive. Western officials said progress has been made in preparatory talks over the last year on holding a conference to discuss the creation of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

Fifty-eight countries voted against the Arab proposal and 45 states for, a clearer outcome than in a similar vote last year. Other countries either abstained or were absent.

Intense lobbying by both sides underlined the resolution’s symbolic geo-strategic significance and divisions on the issue of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, where some Arab countries joined the U.S. this week in air strikes on Islamist terrorists.

World powers agreed in 2010 to an Egyptian plan for an international conference to lay the groundwork for establishing a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.