CAIRO, 28 August 2005 — Egypt’s foreign minister yesterday turned down a request from the world’s nuclear watchdog to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, saying Israel should first join a separate agreement calling for a halt to the spread of atomic bombs.
The refusal by Israel, which is believed to possess hundreds of nuclear warheads, to join the United Nations’ Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has also made the Middle East more insecure, Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted by Egypt’s semiofficial Middle East News Agency as saying.
“Egypt’s ratification of the (test ban) treaty is linked to the extent of developments that may occur in regional and international circumstances, including the possibility that Israel may join the NPT,” MENA quoted the minister as saying.
Aboul Gheit’s comments came in a letter to Tibor Toth, the new executive secretary of the commission that oversees the test ban treaty, know as the CTBT, which bans the development and testing of nuclear arms.
Egypt runs small-scale nuclear programs for medical and research purposes and has previously denied that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapons program.
All Middle Eastern counties are signatories to the NPT except Israel, which is believed to have commenced its nuclear program in the 1950s, but has never denied nor confirmed the widely held view that it possesses atomic bombs. Under the NPT, states without atomic arms pledged not to develop them, and those with the weapons undertook to eventually eliminate their arsenals. The non-weapons states were guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology.
Arab states have demanded the international community do more to force Israel to relinquish its nuclear arms.