VIENNA- The United States and three European allies want a global body controlling nuclear exports to consider whether to establish closer ties with non-members including Israel, despite its assumed atomic arsenal, a confidential document showed.
The issue is sensitive as Israel is outside a 1970 international pact designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the Jewish state is widely believed to be the only country with such arms in the volatile Middle East.
Arab states and Iran often criticize Israel for not signing up to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
With the spread of nuclear technology, and the fears of it falling into the hands of militants or states the West fears could illicitly work on a weapons programme, trade transparency and cooperation are seen as becoming more important.
In view of this, the United States, Britain and the Czech Republic sponsored a Dutch paper submitted ahead of a meeting last week of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), set up in 1975 to ensure that civilian nuclear exports are not diverted for military purposes. All members have signed the NPT.
Currently, Israel is the only non-NSG country that fulfils the criteria regarding "adherence" to its guidelines although India and Pakistan have informally indicated that they also follow them, the Dutch Foreign Ministry document said.
Like Israel, Pakistan and India have both refused to sign the NPT, which would oblige them to scrap their nuclear weapons.
Washington, London and others say India should be allowed to join the NSG, arguing that it qualifies because of the size of its civilian atomic industry and its commitment to stopping the spread of military material. But other member states have voiced doubt about accepting India, which would be the only member of the suppliers group that has not signed up to the NPT.
Any decision on Indian membership or closer relations with others outside the NSG would need the support of all members of the cartel that regulates nuclear trade.