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VIENNA - Egypt accused Israel of gall Wednesday in a bitter exchange over nuclear
Egypt says Israel pays 'no more than lip-service' to nuclear weapons-free zone in Middle East.
disarmament and non-proliferation in the Middle East at a meeting of the UN atomic watchdog.
Egypt's delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency conference said Israel's attitude to disarmament, as expressed by its representative Tuesday, showed its "chutzpah" -- a Hebrew word for "nerve" or "temerity".
Israel's nuclear chief Shaul Chorev had questioned Egypt's own commitment to a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, and reiterated the Jewish state's stance that acceding to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would run against its national interests.
"The only purpose that the remarks by the representative of Israel has served was to demonstrate to this body the full meaning of the word 'chutzpah'," Egypt's Aly Omar Sirry told the 151-nation meeting Wednesday.
Chorev also accused the Arab nation of waging a "harmful political campaign" against Israel and choosing to single it out over "meaningful discussion of regional security in the Middle East."
Israel is the only Middle East power believed to possess nuclear weapons, but it has never officially confirmed or denied this, opting instead for a policy of ambiguity.
Israel "values the non-proliferation regime, recognises its importance and has always demonstrated a responsible policy of restraint in the nuclear domain," Chorev insisted.
In his riposte, Sirry said: "The question that begs for an answer is: what exactly ... is Israel restraining itself from doing."
Israel "is widely known to pay no more than lip-service to the objective of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East," he said.
On the other hand, "Egypt's consistent efforts, as well as the concrete steps it has take over the years and continues to take including in this body are extensively and well-documented," he said.
As every year for the past few years, Arab states have tabled a resolution at this year's IAEA general conference calling on Israel to foreswear nuclear weapons and sign up to the NPT.
The NPT, which came into force in 1970, has been signed by 189 states. Only three countries -- India, Pakistan and Israel -- have not signed it.
North Korea is among those that acceded to the treaty but violated it and withdrew in 2003.
The resolution is expected to come up for debate on Thursday.