CAIRO — Eight Arab states took a united stand Monday against international tolerance of Israel's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Egypt, Syria and six conservative Gulf states, meeting in Cairo at foreign ministers' level, said exempting Israel from nuclear inspections is incompatible with Middle East peace.
It is the first time so many Arab states, at such a level, have taken a common position in the negotiations leading up to a big non-proliferation conference in Geneva in April.
Israel has never signed the treaty, which runs out this year, and the Arabs, led by Egypt, have taken the opportunity to lobby against the special nuclear status Israel has acquired.
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates said:
"Comprehensive peace must achieve equitable and balanced security for all parties. . . .
"Israel remaining outside the umbrella of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is incompatible with achieving security, peace, stability and development in the region."
Egypt, accepting reports that Israel has about 200 nuclear warheads, has said it would find it very difficult to sign an extended treaty if Israel does not sign too.
The United States, which gives Egypt about $2.2 billion annually in aid, has been pressing Cairo to sign. U.S. officials say a compromise might be possible, with Israel committing itself to sign at some later stage.