INTERVIEW-Israel sees nuclear vindication in Obama comments

Wed Jul 7, 2010 12:10pm GMT

* Rare U.S. echoing of Israel's nuclear justifications

* Relief in Israel after Washington stance in NPT review

* Minister: Obama comments important for Israel and region

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM, July 7 (Reuters) - Outspoken recognition by President Barack Obama of Israel's "unique security requirements" is a clear signal Washington backs Israel's secretive nuclear strategy while working toward ridding the Middle East of atomic arms, a top Israeli official said.

The Obama administration alarmed Israel in May by backing an Egyptian initiative for talks in 2012 on a Middle East free of weapons of mass-destruction. Widely assumed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the region, Israel had previously been spared such scrutiny by its guardian ally.

Yet hosting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday, Obama told reporters there was no change in U.S. policy and echoed Israel's veiled justifications for having the bomb -- to the point of briefly mixing up the two countries:

"We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are levelled against us -- against it, that Israel has unique security requirements," the president said."   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.