- Associated Press - Friday, September 16, 2011

GENEVA (AP) - Israel has signed an agreement to upgrade links with the European nuclear physics laboratory CERN, famed for its giant atomic collider beneath the Swiss-French border.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research said Friday it has admitted the country as an associate member pending ratification by Israel’s parliament.

Israeli scientists have long collaborated with CERN, including on an experiment searching for the Higgs particle inside the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider. If proven to exist, the Higgs particle could explain why matter has mass.

The Geneva-based organization has 20 members and CERN says Israel can become the first non-European member after a minimum two-year waiting period. The U.S. has observer status at CERN, one step below associate membership.