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Israel considers talks on nuclear-free Mideast

By Kevin Flower, CNN
April 11, 2012 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israel says it's discussing possibly attending a conference on a nuclear-free Mideast
  • A senior Finnish official reportedly visited Jerusalem to talk about Israel's participation
  • Israel has in the past appeared skeptical about the possibility of a nuclear-free Middle East
  • It is believed to have nuclear weapons and has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel is in the midst of discussions with Finland about the possibility of participating in a conference about creating a nuclear-free Middle East, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry.

"We are taking part in preliminary talks," said Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmor, adding that so far the talks have been "inconclusive."

On Wednesday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported a senior Finnish Foreign Ministry official recently visited Jerusalem to discuss Israel's participation in the conference, which is scheduled for later this year.

Israel is not a signatory to the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan also have not signed the treaty.

While Israel has not declared publicly that it maintains a nuclear arms capability, it is widely believed to stockpile the weapons. Previous calls for Israel to support the nonproliferation treaty and the idea of a nuclear-free Middle East have been met with skepticism.

"The NPT has failed because so many countries have breached it," said a senior Israeli official who is not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

"In order to have a regional (nonproliferation) mechanism, it needs to be credible, and you also need stable governments," the official said.

"We don't think that's coming soon."

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