Ehud Olmert, prime minister of Israel, which Hans Blix says is "assumed" to have 200 nuclear weapons (file photo) (epa)
June 1, 2006 -- Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix says a nuclear-free Middle East is possible if political disputes in the region can be settled first.
However, he said the current political situation in the Middle East does not yet allow the establishment of a nuclear-free zone.
Speaking at a news conference in New York, Blix said that, as a first step toward that goal, states in the Middle East should refrain from enriching uranium and converting plutonium.
Blix also noted that Israel is "assumed" to have 200 nuclear weapons.
(compiled from agency reports)
DECLARED NUCLEAR-WEAPONS COUNTRIES:
country warheads (est.) date of first test
United States 10,500 1945
Russia 18,000 1949
United Kingdom 200 1952
France 350 1960
China 400 1964
India 60-90 1974
Pakistan 28-48 1998
North Korea 0-18 2006
Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, but it has not declared itself a nuclear-armed country.
South Africa constructed six uranium bombs but voluntarily dismantled them.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine all gave up the nuclear weapons that were on their territory when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.