Israel's prime minister said Wednesday he does not expect to face pressure over the country's alleged nuclear program at a high-profile conference next week because the world knows Israel is not a "terrorist regime."
Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to attend the April 12-13 summit on nuclear security in Washington and is likely to use the platform to push for international action against Iran's nuclear program. Asked whether his attendance might draw attention to Israel's own widely suspected nuclear arsenal, the prime minister said anyone could differentiate between dangerous and friendly countries.
"I'm not concerned that anyone would think that Israel is a terrorist regime," Netanyahu told reporters. "Everybody knows a terrorist and rogue regime when they see one, and believe me, they see quite a few around Israel."
Netanyahu said it was a "welcome change" that the U.S. and other countries would be discussing the danger that "nuclear weapons, even crude nuclear weapons, would find their way into the hands of terrorists."
Beginning on Monday, government leaders from more than 40 countries will gather in Washington to discuss improving safeguards against terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons. Ahead of the conference, the White House announced a major shift in U.S. nuclear policy — a new focus on the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists and rogue regimes rather than on the long-running arms race with Russia.
Israel, like the U.S. and many Western countries, believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and Netanyahu is likely to use the Washington conference to call for stronger sanctions to deter Tehran.
Israel fears Iran could use a nuclear weapon against it or possibly pass on such weapons to Iranian-allied Islamic groups in Lebanon or Gaza. Defying the West, Iran has vowed to press ahead with its nuclear program, which it says is meant only to produce electricity.
But Israel's outspoken criticism of Iran has threatened to open the door to further scrutiny of Israel's own nuclear activities.
Israel is widely held to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, though Israel has long followed a policy it calls "nuclear ambiguity" and has never confirmed whether it has nuclear arms. However, there is little doubt internationally that the country has nuclear capability.
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