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Archive for Friday, July 9, 2004

Official: Sharon ready to discuss nuclear-free zone

July 9, 2004

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— Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is ready to discuss a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East as part of future peace talks, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Thursday.

But Mohammed ElBaradei, wrapping up a three-day trip to Israel, failed to make progress in loosening the country's taboo on disclosing its own nuclear-weapons capabilities.

Israeli officials stressed that arms-control talks are far off. Sharon linked the talks to progress in the "road map," an internationally backed plan for peace that has been stalled since its inception a year ago.

Nonetheless, ElBaradei said he was pleased by Sharon's comments.

"That's the first time I hear that from the prime minister of Israel," he said. "It's not a new policy, but affirming that policy at the level of prime minister I thought to be quite a welcome development."

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