VIENNA, Sept 22 (ReutersFredrik Dahl) - Egypt hit out at Israel
on Wednesday for questioning its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, underlining tension between the Jewish state and Arab countries at an annual meeting of the UN atomic watchdog.
In an unusually blunt statement at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an Egyptian delegate told its 151-nation assembly that Israel's representative had demonstrated the full meaning of the word chutzpah. The Yiddish word, also used in the English language, means gall or nerve.
Unlike Israel, which is widely known to pay no more than lip-service to the objective of a nuclear weapon free Middle East, Egypt's consistent efforts ... are extensively and well documented, Aly Omar Sirry said in English.
Arab countries have put forward a resolution at the IAEA calling on Israel, the only country in the Middle East outside the pact, to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and put all its atomic facilities under the agency's oversight.
The United States says the Arab-led push could upset an Egyptian-proposed conference in 2012 towards establishing a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and has called for it to be withdrawn. It also warns it would send a negative signal to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
Israel, widely believed to have the region's only nuclear arsenal, says it will not consider joining the NPT until there is comprehensive Middle East peace. If it signed the pact, it would have to forswear nuclear weaponry.
Arab states say there cannot be peace in the Middle East until Israel gives up nuclear arms. Israel has never confirmed nor denied having atomic bombs, under a policy of ambiguity to deter its Arab and Islamic adversaries.
On Tuesday, a senior Israeli official condemned what he called continuous ill-motivated efforts to single out and to condemn the State of Israel, in his speech to the IAEA's general assembly gathering in Vienna.
Director General Shaul Chorev of Israel's Atomic Energy Organisation also said Egypt, one of the sponsors of the non-binding resolution, must have lost its interest in the conversion of the Middle East into a nuclear weapons free zone.
Chorev said the proposed resolution is incompatible with basic principles and norms of international law.
Responding on Wednesday, Sirry, the Egyptian representative, said Israel had chosen to single itself out because of its rejection of the NPT. India, Pakistan and North Korea are also outside the voluntary 1970 UN treaty.
Sirry added: Beyond Israel's feeble attempts to question Egypt's steadfast commitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the only purpose that the remarks by the representative of Israel has served was to demonstrate to this body the full meaning of the word chutzpah.
Israel and the United States regard Iran as the Middle East's main proliferation threat, accusing it of seeking to develop atomic weapons in secret. Tehran rejects the charge.