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Agence France-Presse

No Obama Pressure on Israel Nuclear Policy: Minister


JERUSALEM - US President Barack Obama during this week's nuclear summit put no pressure on Israel to shift away from its policy of deliberate ambiguity on its atomic programme, a minister said Wednesday.

"The policy of ambiguity is the foundation of Israel's security, it has always been and will continue to be. President Obama did not ask to change it in the current period," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told public radio.

He spoke following the international nuclear summit Monday and Tuesday in Washington, which Ayalon said saw "no changes in policies towards Israel and no new demands from Israel."

Asked about Obama's statements that Israel should sign the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Ayalon said the request was not pressing.

"When all threats, from near or far, against Israel will be definitely removed, then we can consider this question in a positive manner," he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced at the last minute he would not take part in the conference, sending instead one of his deputies.

The Maariv newspaper said Netanyahu was pleased with his decision not to attend. "His satisfaction stems from the fact that the attention of the summit's participants was diverted from his presence and from Israel's nuclear policy," it said.

"Israel did not stand at the centre of the events," Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who headed the Israeli delegation, was quoted as saying.

"We weren't mentioned by any of the speakers, even those who we feared would talk about us."

Foreign military experts believe Israel has an arsenal of several hundred nuclear warheads, but Israel has never publicly acknowledged having atomic weapons, maintaining a policy of deliberate ambiguity since it inaugurated its Dimona nuclear reactor in 1965.

In 1969, Israeli leaders undertook not to make any statement on their country's nuclear potential or carry out any nuclear test, while Washington agreed to refrain from exerting pressure on the issue.

Like nuclear-armed countries India, Pakistan and North Korea, Israel is not party to the NPT in order to avoid international inspections.

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