Middle East leadership needed in WMD talks, U.S. says

April 30, 2013 at 12:23 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, April 30 (UPI) -- Leaders from the Middle East need to take the initiative in advancing dialogue on a weapons-free zone, a U.S. diplomat said from Geneva

A December conference on a Middle East region free of weapons of mass destruction was canceled a month before it was to begin. The U.S. State Department said the conference was canceled "because of present conditions in the Middle East."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation Thomas Countryman said in Geneva that the U.S. government was committed to the conference despite setbacks last year.

"We missed an important deadline but we have not yet missed the opportunity to transform the security environment of the region," he said.

The Egyptian delegation walked out of the meeting in Geneva, saying it was frustrated with the lack of consensus on regional security, Egyptian news agency al-Ahram reports.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi helped broker a cease-fire this year between Hamas and the Israeli government. Cairo said it would honor its peace deals with Israel but has expressed concerns that Israel hasn't signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Countryman said getting the discussion started again wasn't a matter for those outside the region to decide.

"We remain prepared to assist in any way requested but leadership must also come from the states of the region," he said.

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