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Russia calls on Israel to sign nuclear non-proliferation treaty

Russia urged Israel to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, a move that would mean the Israeli government admitting it possesses a nuclear arsenal.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the remarks in an interview with a Syrian news agency published on the ministry's Web site today. He was responding to a question on why the West expressed concern over Iran's nuclear program while „closing its eyes” to the presence of nuclear weapons in Israel.

„The practical realization of the idea of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction” in the Middle East „will only become possible when all countries in the region, including Israel, become members of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and place all their nuclear activities under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Lavrov said. Israel has never admitted possessing nuclear weapons.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - as well as Germany, are leading efforts to persuade Iran to suspend its nuclear research program, amid concerns that the US may use force to stop it. Russia has resisted force and sanctions against Iran.

Russia is a member of the so-called Quartet, alongside the US, UN and European Union, that is seeking peace in the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This week Lavrov met Khalid Mashaal, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, an Islamic Palestinian movement committed to the destruction of Israel, which won Palestinian elections in January 2006. The US and EU regard Hamas as a terrorist organization and don't have direct dealings with it. (Bloomberg)