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Middle East nuclear talks 'next year'

LONDON: Britain and the UN said yesterday they hoped a conference aimed at trying to ban nuclear weapons in the Middle East could take place soon after the US said it would not happen next month as originally planned.

If and when it happens, the conference is likely to be fraught as Iran and Arab states say Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal is the main threat to security in the region, while Israel and the West see Tehran as the main proliferation danger.

"We support the convening of a conference as soon as possible. We endorse fully the work of the Conference Facilitator, Finnish Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava, to build consensus on the next steps," British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said.

"We welcome his commitment to conduct further multilateral consultations with the countries of the region to agree arrangements for a conference in 2013," he said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon echoed Burt's comments, including the hope that the conference could be held next year at "the earliest opportunity".

"I reaffirm my firm resolve and commitment together with the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, in consultation with the states of the region, to convene a conference," he said.



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