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DATE=4/25/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=ISRAEL / NUCLEAR (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-261695 BYLINE=ROSS DUNN DATELINE=JERUSALEM CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Israel says it will continue to maintain a stance of "deliberate ambiguity" over claims that it has a secret arsenal of nuclear weapons. Ross Dunn in Jerusalem reports Israel also criticized Egypt for stirring up international condemnation of the Israeli nuclear policy at a United Nations conference. TEXT: Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh says Israel will continue its policy of refusing to confirm or deny the existence of nuclear weapons. He was reacting to criticism of Israel from Egyptian representatives at a New York review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. One-hundred-87 countries have ratified the agreement. Four -- Israel, Pakistan, India, and Cuba -- have not. Egypt wants Israel to sign the agreement and join talks aimed at ensuring the Middle East becomes a nuclear free zone. An expert on strategic relations in the Middle East at Tel Aviv's Bar-Ilan University, Gerald Steinberg, said he believes Israel's policy of ambiguity has been successful. /// STEINBERG ACT ONE // Israel is a very small state, with a long history of threats to its national survival and security. And over the last four decades, a policy based on an ambiguous deterrent option has been developed, and Israelis see that as having been very successful, not only preventing and in some cases ending attacks but also in bringing the Arab states to the peace process. /// END ACT /// Israel is believed to have about 200 nuclear warheads, but says it will not be the first to introduce them into the Middle East. Professor Steinberg says that if Israel signed the treaty, it would have to destroy any nuclear weapons it may possess. /// STEINBERG ACT TWO /// The terms of the Non-Proliferation treaty are such that all signatories are required to first of all stop, under international inspection, any kind of activities that are related to the development of nuclear weapons and also to destroy to any materials or weapons that are already developed and have been manufactured. So Israel would be giving up all its capabilities. /// END ACT /// The treaty specifies that only five nations with nuclear weapons -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- are allowed to maintain a nuclear capability. Other countries that continue to develop nuclear weapons would be considered to be in violation of the treaty. Deputy Defense Minister Sneh says he believes the United States, Israel's closet ally, will help resist international pressure to clarify its position. Israeli historian Avner Cohen -- author of a 1998 book "Israel and the Bomb" -- says the two countries worked out an agreement over the issue in 1970. He says the United States pledged to help limit international pressure against Israel as long as Israel did not declare itself a nuclear power and did not carry out nuclear weapons tests. Professor Steinberg says he believes these "understandings" are still valid and that is why Israeli officials remain confident of United States government support. (Signed) NEB/RD/JWH/ENE/gm 25-Apr-2000 12:02 PM EDT (25-Apr-2000 1602 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .