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11-17-2008, 09:41 AM
U.S. study urges Obama to press Israel over nuclear program


By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

The Middle East is in danger of accumulating large stocks of nuclear material over the next decade that could be used to produce over 1,700 nuclear bombs, a U.S. research center has projected in a newly released report.

The Institute for Science and International Security, headed by David Albright, one the world's top experts on nuclear weapons and the prevention of nuclear proliferation, recently released its report urging president-elect Barack Obama to take a number of measures to avoid such an outcome, including convincing Israel to halt production of its nuclear weapons.

"The Obama administration should make a key priority of persuading Israel to join the negotiations for a universal, verified treaty that bans the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear explosives, commonly called the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT)," the institute argued. "As an interim step, the United States should press Israel to suspend any production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Toward this goal, the United States should change its relatively new policy of seeking a cutoff treaty that does not include verification. The Bush administration's rejection of the long-standing U.S. policy of requiring verification was a mistake that the incoming administration needs to rectify."

Though Israel has never publicly admitted it has nuclear arms, it is largely believed to possess about 200 nuclear warheads. Iran has defied the international community for years by running a nuclear program which many observers fear may allow it to obtain nuclear arms in the future.

More recently, several Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey announced their intention of building nuclear power plants.

Though most countries said they want to build reactors in order to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels as their sole source of energy, the institute's researchers believe they also wish to create a nuclear infrastructure in their own countries in light of the possibility that Iran will obtain nuclear arms.

In the year 2020 a number of nuclear reactors in the Middle East are expected to be completed, producing over 13 tons of plutonium. According to the institute, a nuclear device requires only eight kilograms to be assembled.

The institute believes the White House should strive to have Egypt, Iran and Israel ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). It also has stated that the U.S. should discourage the reprocessing of irradiated power reactor fuel both domestically and internationally.