The UN nuclear assembly voted on Friday to urge Israel to
accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and place all atomic sites under UN inspections, in a surprise victory for Arab states.
The resolution, passed narrowly for the first time in nearly two decades, expresses concern about "Israeli nuclear capabilities" and calls on International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei to work on the issue.
The Middle East resolution, sponsored by Arab states, was backed by 49 votes to 45 against in a floor vote at the IAEA's annual member states conference. The vote split along Western and developing nation lines. There were 16 abstentions.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters the passage of the resolution was "very good news and a triumph for the oppressed nation of Palestine".
Russia and China backed the resolution.
Israel is one of only three countries worldwide along with India and Pakistan outside the nuclear NPT and
is widely assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, though it has never confirmed or denied it.
"The delegation of Israel deplores this resolution," David Danieli, deputy director of Israel's atomic energy commission, told the chamber after the vote.
"Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and lines of division in the Middle East region."
The measure was last voted on in 1991 when it passed by 39-31 with 13 abstentions when IAEA membership was much smaller.
Since then there has only been presidential summaries of debate on this item or motions for adjournment or no action that carried the floor.
Diplomats pointed to the increased number of abstentions – from countries ranging from India to Argentina and Nigeria as an important factor in the resolution's adoption.