New York NPT meet wraps up with agreement on nuke-free Mideast, Israel included

Israel rejects resolution, boycotts any conference drawing near to its nuke arsenal

Iran says made fresh nuke achievements, Russia terms Iranian statements “emotional”

Israel deploying nuke subs off Iran

Tension mounting on Korean Peninsula

One top agenda item on the Israeli prime minister's now-canceled visit to Washington on Tuesday was a proposed U.N. conference the Jewish state fears is a ploy to pressure it to relinquish its nuclear arsenal.

On Friday, a U.S. delegation in New York voted to endorse a consensus document ending the 2010 review conference for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that calls for a conference in 2012 to discuss a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East.

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran's failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

A statement issued late Friday evening from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem said the resolution calling for a 2012 conference was "deeply flawed and hypocritical."

"It singles out Israel, the Middle East's only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation," the statement goes on to say. "Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution."

The statement also announces that Israel will not participate in the conference. Israeli papers on Sunday reported that President Obama offered Israel new strategic assurances regarding its strategic and deterrent capabilities, a code word in Israeli newspapers for its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

The nuclear issue also comes up while Israel and the U.S. are publicly disagreeing over an Obama administration demand for Israel to freeze housing construction in East Jerusalem.

Israel and the U.S. have since 1969 had a secret understanding on the Jewish state's nuclear arsenal. Avner Cohen, a senior fellow at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the author of the definitive account of Israel's nuclear history, "Israel and the Bomb," has called the understanding "don't ask, don't tell." In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.

In May 2009, Mr. Netanyahu received assurances from Mr. Obama that this secret understanding was still in effect.

The language singling out Israel and calling for a 2012 conference on a WMD-free Middle East is similar to a demand first broached in the 1995 and in the 2000 NPT review conferences. The author of the idea for a regional conference is Egypt, the first Arab neighbor to make an official peace with Israel and an NPT signatory.

One of the reasons why the United States did not sign off on a consensus document ending the 2005 conference is because the Bush administration opposed pressure on Israel to join the NPT.

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel.

A senior State Department official told The Times, "We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document."

An Arab diplomat who worked on the language on the 2012 conference told The Times that the U.S. delegation sought to tie the conference to a concession from the conference to Iran.

"They did fight hard," this diplomat said. "They were trying to have a balance between the language on Israel and the language on Iran. They were initially trying to link the two.

The problem is that their case was weak. The language they were opposing for Israel was in the 2000 review conference."

Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, said, "The United States made it clear from the get-go that it would be unhelpful to call upon Israel specifically to join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state because that could suggest that the purpose of the WMD conference would be to put Israel and Israel alone on the spot."

Initially, the State Department fact sheet touted the success of the document, noting that the document had new language on the repercussions for states such as North Korea that take advantage of international nuclear energy assistance up to the point when it can create a nuclear bomb.

But later Friday, the White House issued separate statements from President Obama and National Security Adviser James L. Jones deploring the section of the agreement it said "singled out Israel."

"The United States will not permit a conference or actions that could jeopardize Israel's national security. We will not accept any approach that singles out Israel or sets unrealistic expectations. The United States' long-standing position on Middle East peace and security remains unchanged, including its unshakeable commitment to Israel's security," Mr. Jones said.

"In this respect, the United States deplores the decision to single out Israel in the Middle East section of the NPT document," he added.

Initial reaction from Washington has been mixed. In a telephone interview Sunday, Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said the final document from the conference was "obscene."

"Why would we single out Israel for condemnation and leave Iran out?" asked Mr. Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "That is totally obscene, when the biggest threat to the region and the world is Iran and its ambition to achieve a nuclear weapon and delivery system."

Mr. Cohen, who is himself Israeli, compared Israel's reaction to a "spoiled child."

"The time has come for Israel to stop being a spoiled child," he said. "Israel keeps saying they are being abandoned. Nothing shows that this administration on the nuclear issue in the near term will abandon Israel."

A senior Republican staffer who works on nonproliferation issues agreed that there is little chance that Mr. Obama will reverse long-standing policy on Israel's nuclear arsenal.

"The U.S. will not likely act any different than they always have regarding Israel's nuclear ambiguity," he said.

"But," the staffer noted, "this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America's traditional role as protecting Israel's nuclear ambiguity."

Meanwhilem the UN atomic agency said this week that Iran has amassed more than two tons of enriched uranium.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report heightened Western concerns about the country developing the ability to produce a nuclear weapon.

Two tons of uranium would be enough for two nuclear warheads. Iran says it does not want weapons and is only pursuing civilian nuclear energy.

The United States and the four other permanent U.N. Security Council members - Russia, China, Britain and France - have tentatively backed a draft for a fourth set of U.N. sanctions against Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

Separately, the IAEA - the U.N. nuclear watchdog - said Syria continues to stonewall agency reports to follow up on U.S. assertions that a facility destroyed three years ago by Israeli warplanes was a secretly built reactor meant to produce plutonium.

Syria denies allegations it was being helped by Iran and North Korea in developing a covert program.

But diplomats familiar with the Syria probe told The Associated Press of a visit to Syria in January by a high-ranking Iranian nuclear delegation led by Mahdi Kaniki, a deputy to Ali Akhbar Salehi, an Iranian deputy president and head of his country’s nuclear program. The two diplomats asked for anonymity because their information was confidential.

For seven months, Iran refused to accept a deal brokered by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency that foresaw Iran exporting 2,640 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France to be turned into fuel for Tehran’s research reactor.

The West backed that offer because it would have committed Iran to exporting most of the enriched uranium it had produced and left it with less than the 2,200 pounds of material needed to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb.

Iran rejected the offer then but now says it is ready to ship out the same amount of material and has enlisted the backing of Turkey and Brazil in trying to reach a compromise and derail the new sanctions push.

Iran insists it has no interest in nuclear weapons. But its refusal to stop enrichment have increased international worry.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced doubt on Thursday about whether Tehran would fulfill the terms of a deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey aimed at resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.

"There are no 100 percent guarantees. Very much will depend on how Iran will approach its commitments. If it strictly abides by them, Russia will actively support the scheme proposed by Brazil and Turkey," Lavrov said.

Signed last week, the deal calls for Iran to deposit a large part of its uranium stockpile in Turkey in exchange for better-enriched nuclear fuel destined for a research reactor in Tehran.

"We welcome this deal. If fully implemented, it will create very important preconditions not just for the solution of the concrete problem -- supplies of fuel for this reactor -- but for improving the atmosphere for the renewal of negotiations," Lavrov said in televised remarks.

But Lavrov gave no indication of how the deal might affect Russia's stance on a US-drafted resolution in the UN Security Council calling for Iran to be punished with a new round of sanctions.

Later on Thursday, Lavrov spoke by telephone to his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki to discuss Tehran's nuclear program and the Brazil-Turkey agreement, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Russia expressed its readiness to actively support the advancement of the process of negotiation aimed at resolving the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program," the statement said.

Russia has continued to back the push for UN sanctions despite the signing of the Brazil-Turkey deal, angering Iran and leading to a heated exchange this week between Russian and Iranian officials.

The deal spearheaded by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was seen as a last-ditch bid to avoid the new UN sanctions.

But it was received coolly by Western governments, who suspect Tehran of seeking to acquire an atomic bomb under the guise of its civilian nuclear energy program.

Tehran denies that it is seeking to build atomic weapons and insists that its nuclear program is strictly peaceful in nature.

Meanwhile, Israel is stationing three of its five Dolphin class submarines in the Red Sea, and will keep one of them operating off the Iranian coast at all times. These subs will be armed with cruise missiles (equipped with nuclear warheads).

Last year, Israel has received two more German built Dolphin class submarines, giving it a total of five (the others were received 9-10 years ago). The older boats have since been upgraded to include larger fuel capacity, converting more torpedo tubes to the larger 650mm size, and installing new electronics. The fuel and torpedo tube mods appear to have something to do with stationing the subs off the coast of Iran.

Larger torpedo tubes allow the subs to carry longer range missiles. The larger fuel capacity makes it easier to move Dolphins from the Mediterranean to the Indian ocean.

Although Israel has a naval base on the Red Sea, Egypt had, until recently, had not allowed Israeli subs to use the Suez canal. So the Dolphins were modified to go around Africa, if they had to. But now the Egyptians, who are also feuding with Iran, regularly allow Israeli subs to use the canal.

Larger fuel capacity also allows the subs to spend more time on station off the Iranian coast. Currently the Dolphins can stay at sea for about 40 days (moving at about 14 kilometers an hour, on the surface, for up to 8,000 kilometers). Larger fuel capacity extends range to over 10,000 kilometers, and endurance to about 50 days.

The two new Dolphins cost about $650 million each, with Germany picking up a third of the coast, as part of their reparations for World War II atrocities against Jews. The Dolphins have a fuel cell based propulsion system which enables them to stay under waters for over a week at a time. The Dolphins are also very quiet, and very difficult for the Iranians to hunt down and destroy. The first three Dolphins didn't have the AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) system.

Israel equipped its new Dolphin class submarines with nuclear cruise missiles in 2002. Israel also fitted their 135 kilometer range Harpoon missiles with nuclear warheads. These missiles are fired from the subs torpedo tubes. The 1,625 ton Dolphins can carry 16 torpedoes or missiles and have ten forward torpedo tubes (four of them the larger 650mm -26 inch- size).

The Dolphins are considered the most modern non-nuclear subs in the world. The first three cost $320 million each. All have a crew of 35 and can dive to a depth of more than 600 feet.

The Dolphin design is based on the German 209 class subs, but has been so heavily modified that it is considered a different class.

The Israelis have developed a cruise missile, which is has a range of 1,500 kilometers and carries a 200 kiloton nuclear warhead. The objective of deploying nukes on subs is to further enhance deterrence to any nation launching a nuclear strike against Israel. If one of the Dolphins is always at sea, even a first strike against Israel would not prevent a nuclear strike by submarine launched nukes.

On the other hand, tensions on the Korean peninsula soared Tuesday as South Korea resumed propaganda broadcasts into North Korea in retaliation for the deadly sinking of a warship, while the North's leader reportedly has ordered troops ready for combat.

The South's restarting of psychological warfare operations was among measures it announced Monday, along with slashing trade, to punish Pyongyang for the March torpedo strike that sank a navy warship and killed 46 sailors.

The U.S. has thrown its full support behind South Korea's moves to retaliate, which also include bringing North Korea before the U.N. Security Council. China - North Korea's main ally and aid provider and a veto-weilding member of the Security Council - has so far done little but urge calm on all sides.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Beijing conferring with officials on a coordinated response. China's top nuclear envoy, meanwhile, huddled with South Korean officials in Seoul.

South Korea's military resumed radio broadcasts airing Western music, news and comparisons between the South and North Korean political and economic situations late Monday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military also planned to launch propaganda leaflets Tuesday to inform North Koreans about the ship sinking.

In coming weeks, South Korea also will install dozens of propaganda loudspeakers and towering electronic billboards along the heavily armed land border between the two Koreas to send messages enticing communist soldiers to defect to the South.

The action, which ends a six-year suspension, is expected to draw an angry response from North Korea. The country's military already warned Monday it would fire at any propaganda facilities installed in the Demilitarized Zone.

A North Korean monitoring group said Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il last week ordered his 1.2 million-member military to get ready for combat, shortly after South Korea officially blamed his regime for the March 26 sinking of its warship Cheonan.