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Netanyahu Cancels Participation in US Nuclear Summit

A key player in the Middle East has dropped out of U.S. President Barack Obama's 47-nation conference on nuclear security which begins on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled plans to attend the nuclear security summit in Washington. Mr. Netanyahu hoped to highlight Israel's opposition to a nuclear Iran. But officials say he decided not to attend after learning that Muslim delegates, led by Egypt and Turkey, plan to raise the issue of Israel's assumed arsenal of some 200 nuclear weapons.

Mr. Netanyahu feared that the spotlight would be taken off Iran and the threat of nuclear terrorism, and the focus would become Israel's nuclear program. Israel has maintained a policy of "nuclear ambiguity," neither confirming nor denying that it has atomic weapons.

Israel is sending a lower-level delegation to Washington headed by Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor. He says the focus of the summit should be Iran's quest for nuclear weapons.

"The test of the American policy towards nuclear proliferation is Iran. This is the only game in town. Iran is continuing its process towards becoming a nuclear military power," said Meridor.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But Meridor says Iran poses a growing threat to the entire Middle East.

"Ask the Egyptians, ask the Saudis whether they accept a nuclear Iran. A nuclear Iran is a threat to the stability of this region, stability of many Arab regimes. So it's more than the Israeli issue, it's much broader than that," he said.

Muslim countries complain of a double standard: The West urges them to remain nuclear-free while turning a blind eye to Israel's nuclear program.