Arabs Ask E.U. for Help Forcing Israel to Open Secret Nuke Program

Arab states are lobbying the European Union for support in their drive to force Israel to open up its secretive nuclear program to international perusal, documents made available to The Associated Press show.

In a letter addressed to Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Amre Moussa, secretary general of the 22-nation League of Arab States, urges Sweden to back an Arab resolution entitled "Israel's Nuclear Capabilities." The document is to be submitted for a vote at next month's 150-nation general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Sweden currently holds the EU's rotating presidency. Diplomats from EU member countries and from other nations accredited to the IAEA told the AP Thursday that the same letter was sent to the foreign ministers of the other 26 EU member countries. They demanded anonymity for commenting on a confidential issue.

While Israel has never confirmed its status, it is commonly considered to have nuclear weapons, and Arab states regularly push at the annual IAEA conference for it to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and open its facilities for IAEA perusal.

General conference resolutions sponsored by the Arab League express concern about "Israeli nuclear capabilities" and ask the IAEA to help implement the nonproliferation treaty regime on Israel.

A draft of the resolution prepared for next month's conference that was attached to the letter to Bildt gives voice to those same concerns and demands.

But in a new twist, it welcomes "recent initiatives calling for a 'nuclear weapons-free world"' — an allusion to President Barack Obama's April call to abolish nuclear weapons that appeared calculated to generate extra support for the anti-Israel resolution.

While the Americans are not expected to end their support for Israel at the weeklong conference, which opens Sept. 14, the phrase was expected to give a platform for U.S. rivals such as Iran in their criticism of Washington's backing of the Jewish state.

Muslim nations consider Israel the region's main nuclear threat. The United States and its allies see Iran's defiance of the U.N. Security Council in its development of technology that could be used to make the bomb as the greatest menace to Middle East peace.

Iran says it wants to perfect the technology — uranium enrichment — not to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads but for fuel to generate power.

"We are hopeful that your country would support the Arab draft resolution," says the June 29 letter to Bildt. "Unfortunately," Sweden was among the EU nations voting to block action on the document last year, Moussa wrote.

In Stockholm, Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Anders Jorle said Thursday the Swedish EU presidency was preparing an answer on behalf of the European Union but no final stance had yet been decided.

The votes of the 27 members of the EU are important for both opponents and proponents of censuring Israel at the conference — the motion critical of the Jewish state was only narrowly defeated last year. That indicated growing support for the Arab initiative, particularly among developing countries.