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US says conference on WMD-free Middle East cancelled
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 23, 2012


The United States said Friday a conference on a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction has been scrapped because of conditions in the region and lack of consensus among the states involved.

The conference, which was mooted in a 2010 review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, was supposed to have been held next month in Finland.

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said states in the region had been unable to agree on "acceptable conditions for a conference" and she cited "present conditions in the Middle East" as standing in the way.

The announcement comes amid a flare up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, civil war in Syria and an unsettled political situation in Egypt.

"The United States believes that a deep conceptual gap persists in the region on approaches toward regional security and arms control arrangements," Nuland said in a statement.

"These differences can only be bridged through direct engagement and agreement among the states in the region. Outside states cannot impose a process on the region any more than they can dictate an outcome.

"We would not support a conference in which any regional state would be subject to pressure or isolation," Nuland added, alluding to US ally Israel.

The issue has long set Israel, which has an undeclared nuclear stockpile, against Arab states led by Egypt, which want the United Nations to declare a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

Israeli and western suspicions that Iran is secretly working toward a nuclear weapons capacity of its own have further complicated the task.

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