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The official Israeli statement, for example, from the International Atomic Energy Agency conference in September endorsed the long-term goal of a nuclear-free Middle East.

It also said, “in our view, progress towards realizing this vision cannot be made without a fundamental change in regional circumstances, including a significant transformation in the attitude of states in the region towards Israel.”

An Israeli official said Sunday: “We haven’t changed our policy. We are in favor of and support a nuclear-free Middle East. We believe this should be a culmination of a process and not the beginning of a process, this is a process that includes individual and bilateral peace agreements.”

At last year’s U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he sought and received assurances from President Obama on a series of strategic understandings between the two countries. The Washington Times first reported last year that one of those reassurances was the Meir-Nixon understanding.

Over the weekend, U.S. officials tried to lower expectations that Egypt would modify its proposal for a nuclear-free Middle East. “We are still in the early stages of negotiations,” a senior White House official said.

One possible compromise would be for the United States to accept naming an envoy or coordinator for a regional conference on seeking a Middle East that is free of weapons of mass destruction.

“It appears that the various key players could reach agreement in principle to name a special envoy and to call upon states in the region to meet to discuss the issue,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. “This is a helpful, country-neutral way to deal with the Iranian issue and Israel’s controversial nuclear program.”

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said a deal with the Egyptians is within reach.

“The key is for the U.S. administration to quietly let the Egyptians know that at the presidential and vice-presidential level, the United States takes the issue of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East seriously.”

On April 13, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and other foreign ministers during the summit on uncontrolled nuclear material.

A senior administration official said, “At the lunch, they discussed the NPT and how to strengthen it.”