UNITED NATIONS —
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for blocking an Egyptian-led drive on a possible Middle East nuclear arms ban at a United Nations conference, an Israeli official said on Saturday.
It was a rare message of thanks from Netanyahu, who repeatedly has accused President Barack Obama of undermining Israel's security by attempting to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.
A month-long review conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended in failure on Friday over disagreements on the issue of a Middle East atomic weapons ban. Washington blamed the failure on Egypt, which in turn blamed the U.S., British and Canadian delegations.
Netanyahu spoke with Kerry "to convey his appreciation to President Obama and to the Secretary," a senior Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.
"The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East," the official added.
Israel also thanked Britain and Canada for joining the United States in blocking consensus at the conference, the official said.
Last month, Egypt, backed by other Arab and non-aligned states, proposed that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convene within 180 days a regional conference on banning weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as called for at the 2010 NPT review meeting.
According to Egypt's proposal the conference could take place with or without Israel's participation, and could be held without agreement on an agenda or discussion of regional security issues — two of Israel's conditions for participating.
Israel neither confirms nor denies the widespread assumption that it controls the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal. Israel, which has never joined the NPT, agreed to take part in the review meeting as an observer, ending a 20-year absence.
The call for a 2012 conference on a regional WMD ban, approved at the 2010 NPT review meeting, infuriated Israel, though it eventually agreed to attend planning meetings. The 2012 conference never took place, which annoyed Egypt and other Arab states.
Egypt's proposals, Western diplomats say, were aimed at pressuring Israel. Washington and Israel say Iran's nuclear program is the real regional threat.
Iran says its program is peaceful. It is negotiating with world powers to curb it in exchange for lifting sanctions.
Israel has said it would consider joining the NPT only once at peace with its Arab neighbors and Iran.