U.N. review of nuclear treaty will shine spotlight on Israel

More than 180 other nations, in turn, have agreed not to acquire nuclear arms.

Israel, one of only four countries that have not signed the treaty, is not participating in the review conference. The others who have not joined the treaty are India, Pakistan and Cuba. In May 1998, India and Pakistan revealed their capabilities by testing nuclear weapons. Cuba reportedly has no nuclear program.

A new report of the Acronym Institute, a London-based agency that works with policymakers and non-governmental organizations to promote nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament, suggests a new tact when dealing with Israel, India and Pakistan.

"There is no prospect of India, Israel, or Pakistan giving up their nuclear capabilities and adhering to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states. Nor could they become acknowledged as nuclear-weapon states without undesirable legal and political consequences.

"Some governments are increasingly making the pragmatic argument that it is most important to persuade these three de facto nuclear-weapon possessors to undertake the obligations in the NPT."

These would include an agreement not to transfer nuclear-weapons technology or materials and a vow to halt production of fissile materials.

Israeli officials said this week they were not aware of the proposal.

At the 1995 NPT conference, the United Nations passed a landmark resolution that extended the treaty indefinitely, essentially making it permanent. It also passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, which in effect singles out Israel.

Egypt has led the campaign at past conferences to compel Israel to sign the treaty.

Officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry said this week they would closely follow the NPT talks and expressed hope that the meetings would not become a forum for criticizing Israel.