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Israel backs Nuclear Test Ban Treaty - with no timeframe for ratification

The test ban treaty was signed by 183 nations in 1996 but is still awaiting ratification from eight countries. As a bulwark against Iran Netanyahu is reportedly seeking closer ties with moderate Sunni Arabs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he supports the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) but is not ready to ratify it.

The UN adopted the pact almost 20 years ago

but it has yet to take effect as several key players have not ratified it. The CTBT, which bans all nuclear explosions, was passed by UN General Assembly in September 1996.

Israel is widely believed to be the only undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East. It is among the signatories to the treaty but has never ratified it.

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After meeting with Lassina Zerbo, the head of the Vienna-based CTBT, Netanyahu's office said in a statement:

"The state of Israel supports the treaty and its goals and has, therefore, signed the treaty. The prime minister added that the issue of ratification depends on the regional context and the appropriate timing."

The statement didn't detail what needed to happen for Israel to ratify the treaty, or offer a timeframe for ratification.

No timeframe commitment

In addition to whatever qualms Israel held in the past, their concerns were amplified last year when

the international community signed a nuclear deal with Iran

that Netanyahu's government vehemently opposed - despite reassurances from the United States.

Zerbo said of his meeting with Netanyahu that

the prime minister did not commit to any timeframe for ratification

, but said that Netanyahu "told me the issue of ratifying the treaty is a matter of 'when, rather than if.' They are working on the conditions for the 'when'. He said he was committed and supportive of the treaty."

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He dismissed concerns over Israel's lack of commitment to a timeframe

, saying this was "normal in diplomacy."

The development comes on the heels of recent statements by Netanyahu indicating that he is quietly forging closer alliances with moderate Sunni Arab states in an effort to build an alliance against Islamic extremists.

Few details, however, are known.

A treaty without consequences

The CTBT has been signed by 183 countries

and ratified by 164, including Russia, France and Britain - three of the nine countries which have, or are believed to possess, nuclear weapons.

The treaty needs 44 specific "nuclear technology holder" states to ratify it in order for it to take effect.

Eight nations have yet to do so.

They include the six from the nuclear club - the United States, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel - as well as Iran and Egypt.

bik/kl (AFP, AP)

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