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U.S. says no conference on nuke-free Mideast for now

WASHINGTON – The U.S. says a proposed conference on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East cannot be convened at this point because of current conditions in the region.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement released Friday that the U.S. will continue to work to create conditions that could result in a successful conference. But she cited political turmoil in the region and Iran's defiant stance on nonproliferation.

She says the U.S. supports the goal of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. But she said such a conference should discuss a broad agenda of regional security and have some sort of consensus among the nations in the region on how to approach the conference.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that the meeting, planned for Helsinki, Finland, before the end of the year had been called off. A diplomat, who demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of a public announcement of the cancellation, said Israel had decided not to attend. Key sponsors had said that the meeting was possible only if all countries, especially Israel, would participate.

Israel declined to participate because of positions taken by Arab countries, the diplomat said.

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Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

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