Non-Proliferation Treaty Supported Egyptian President, Clinton Agree On Ridding Middle East Of N-Weapons
President Clinton said Wednesday he would support efforts to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons after peace is achieved there, a promise that appears to have eased tensions between the United States and Egypt over Israel’s reported nuclear arsenal.
Clinton made the commitment at a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who until recently had threatened to block the American-led quest to extend indefinitely the treaty banning the spread of nuclear weapons. Mubarak had pointed to Israel’s refusal to sign the document as reason for his concerns about it, but he signaled after his talks with Clinton that he now is prepared to accept it.
“We have no problem even with the United States,” Mubarak said when asked about the past disagreement. He described renewal of the 25-year-old nuclear non-proliferation treaty as important “for the welfare of the whole world and the new world order.”
Only last month, Egypt had said it would refuse to support renewal of the treaty until it is signed by Israel. That would require Israel to submit to immediate inspections of its nuclear installations, a step that Israel has said it cannot accept while its relations with its neighbors remain so uncertain.
The Egyptian threat was echoed by other Arab countries, and it appeared to jeopardize prospects for the treaty’s renewal.
But Egypt’s stance has softened in the face of heavy lobbying from the United States, Japan and others. And after Clinton indicated that he would support efforts to persuade Israel to surrender its nuclear weapons in the future, Mubarak expressed some willingness on Wednesday to accommodate the Israeli position.
“We are not asking them to join the (nonproliferation treaty) now or tomorrow,” Mubarak said of Israel at a joint news conference with Clinton. The Egyptian leader also disclosed that his foreign minister, Amr Moussa, would meet in Paris today with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel to discuss nuclear issues, and he said he hopes that “with the help of the United States, we could narrow the gap.”
The Clinton administration has urged Israel to sign the nuclear accord. But it has not pressed that campaign, and it has said it would not be appropriate to link renewal of the treaty to any timetable for Israeli acquiescence.