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Israel Agrees to Inspections of Atomic Monitoring Stations

Sep 24 2004
By Yossi Melman, Ha'aretz Correspondent

Israel signed an agreement Thursday that allows experts from the commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to carry out inspections and collect data at nuclear monitoring stations in Israeli territory.

The agreement is a follow-up to the more general CTBTO treaty that Israel signed in September 1996. Like the United States and 10 other countries, including Egypt, Israel has not ratified that treaty. Thursday's agreement has no connection to the nuclear research facility in Dimona, which remains off-limits to international inspection.

The agreement was signed by the director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, Gideon Frank, and the executive secretary of the CTBTO, Wolfgang Hoffmann, at a ceremony at the organization's headquarters in Vienna.

Two International Monitoring System facilities - out of a total of 300 around the world - have been set up in Israel, and the data they collect will be sent to the CTBTO's headquarters. The data is meant to reveal incidents of nuclear testing, be they underground or in the atmosphere. The monitoring stations also collect seismic and environmental data that can be used for other scientific research on natural and climatic phenomena.

An international conference on a nuclear-free Middle East is scheduled to take place in January 2005, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The purpose of the conference is primarily academic. Israel has, however, threatened to boycott the gathering if a resolution proposed by the Arab world on "the threat posed by Israel's nuclear capabilities," materializes this week at a gathering of the IAEA.

In the past, the proposed resolution was removed from the agenda following American pressure.

If the proposed resolution is retracted, Israel will put its name to a more general document calling for "efforts of the IAEA to implement nuclear inspections in the Middle East."

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