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    Russia wants Israel to join NPT - FM Sergei Lavrov

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    Russia wants Israel, which has never admitted its nuclear status but is nevertheless believed to possess nuclear weapons, to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, the Russian foreign minister said.

    MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia wants Israel, which has never admitted its nuclear status but is nevertheless believed to possess nuclear weapons, to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, the Russian foreign minister said.

    "We believe that the practical implementation of a nuclear-free zone will become possible only when all countries in the region, including Israel, join the NPT and subject their activities to the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Syrian Arab News Agency, published Friday by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

    The issue of nuclear arms has became topical in the Middle East ever since the United States began accusing Iran of pursuing a covert nuclear arms program and demanding that it cease its uranium enrichment activities, while Iran, which is an NPT signatory, has consistently maintained that it needs its nuclear program for its civilian energy needs.

    Unlike Iran, Israel, a traditional ally of the United States in the region, has not signed the NPT.

    "Russia's principled position - that Israel should join the NPT and all Arab countries should join the Chemical Weapons Convention - remains unchanged," the Russian minister said.

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