The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Israel to quickly open its nuclear programme for inspection and backing a high-level conference to ban nuclear weapons from West Asia which was just cancelled.

All the Arab nations and Iran had planned to attend the conference in mid-December in Helsinki, Finland, but the United States announced on November 23 that it wouldn’t take place, citing political turmoil in the region and Iran’s defiant stance on non-proliferation.

Iran and some Arab nations countered that the real reason for the cancellation was Israel’s refusal to attend the meeting.

The resolution, approved by a vote of 174-6 with six abstentions, calls on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty “without further delay” and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Those voting “no” were Israel, U.S., Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

Resolutions adopted by the 193-member General Assembly are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight.

Israel refuses to confirm or deny it has nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal. It has refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, along with three nuclear weapon states India, Pakistan and North Korea.

The Arab proposal to create a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the West Asian region, and to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared arsenal of perhaps 80 nuclear warheads, was endorsed at an NPT conference in 1995 but never acted on.

In 2010, the 189 parties to the 1970 treaty called for convening a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The resolution, which was approved by the assembly’s disarmament committee before the conference was cancelled, noted the decision to hold it “with satisfaction.”

— AP