The U.N. nuclear assembly voted on Friday to urge Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and place all atomic sites under U.N. inspections, in a surprise victory for Arab states.
The resolution, passed narrowly for the first time in nearly two decades, expresses concern about "Israeli nuclear capabilities" and calls on International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed al-Baradei to work on the issue.
Initially, Western states tried to stop the resolution from going to a vote, arguing it would be counterproductive to single out Israel, particularly after a resolution had been passed the day before calling on all states in the Middle East to foreswear nuclear weapons.
But the adjournment motion was defeated and voting went ahead, with a total 49 countries in favour, 45 against and 16 abstentions.
It is the first time since 1991 that such a resolution has been adopted.
Israel's arch-enemy Iran had spoken in favour of the resolution, describing Israel's nuclear capabilities as "a potential threat to the peace and security of the world."
It also undermined the integrity and credibility of the non-proliferation regime and the NPT, argued Tehran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh.
After the vote, Soltanieh described the resolution as "very good news and a triumph for the oppressed nation of Palestine."
Russia and China also backed the resolution.
Israel refuses cooperation
Israel is one of only three countries worldwide along with India and Pakistan outside the nuclear NPT and is widely assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, though it has never confirmed or denied it.
"The delegation of Israel deplores this resolution," David Danieli, deputy director of Israel's atomic energy commission, told the chamber after the vote.
"Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and lines of division in the Middle East region."
The measure was last voted on in 1991 when it passed by 39-31 with 13 abstentions when IAEA membership was much smaller.
Since then there has only been presidential summaries of debate on this item or motions for adjournment or no action that carried the floor.
Diplomats pointed to the increased number of abstentions -- from countries ranging from India to Argentina and Nigeria as an important factor in the resolution's adoption.
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