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U.S. postpones Helsinki conference on nuclear-free Middle East

The U.S. says a proposed conference scheduled to be held in Helsinki on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East cannot be convened at this point because of current conditions in the region. Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja told Yle the fate of the proposed conference remains open.

The State Department announced that the mid-December conference on creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction would not occur and did not make clear when, or whether, it would take place.

The State Department said it would keep working to try to bring about a meeting, adding such a gathering must take into account the security of all the states in the region and operate on the basis of consensus - effectively guaranteeing Israel, and everyone else, a veto.

U.S. diplomats fear the conference could be used to target and pressure Israel.

U.S. and Israeli officials have said a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East could not be a reality until there was broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran curbed its nuclear program. 

The plan for a meeting to lay the groundwork for the possible creation of a WMD-free Middle East was agreed to at a May 2010 conference of 189 parties to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Preparations continue despite postponement

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja told Yle the fate of the proposed conference remains open.

“So far, no-one has said “no” to the meeting but participation by all sides involved is essential for its outcome,” Tuomioja noted.

According to Ambassador Aapo Pölhö, who has taken part in preparations for the meeting, talks are proceeding for the conference to take place at a later date. He believes common ground on staging the conference can be found.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said on Saturday that the world body together with Russia, Britain and the United States will continue consultations on organizing the conference. The aim is have all middle east nations round the table to discuss the establishment of a nuclear free zone in the area.

Sources: Reuters, AP, AFP, Yle News

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