VIENNA (AP) -- Israel's prime minister declared Monday that his country is prepared to ratify a treaty banning nuclear tests, a senior U.N. official said after meeting with the Israeli leader.
Lassina Zerbo, who heads the U.N. organization created to implement the treaty, told The Associated Press that Benjamin Netanyahu considers the issue of ratifying the treaty a matter of "when, rather than if."
Israeli ratification would move the treaty closer to taking effect, leaving only seven holdouts among the 44 countries that must ratify it for the pact to go live.
Zerbo, who heads the Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, spoke to the AP by telephone after meeting in Israel with Netanyahu.
He considers ratification by Israel a key step toward a nuclear test-free zone in the Middle East and said the commitment by Netanyahu was a first for the prime minister after protracted discussions on a technical level between the CTBTO and Israeli experts.
While the Israeli prime minister did not commit himself to a specific time-frame for ratification, Zerbo said that is "normal in diplomacy."
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, known as the CTBT, has 196 member states — 183 that have signed the treaty and 164 that have ratified it. But the treaty has not entered into force because it still needs ratification by eight countries that had nuclear power reactors or research reactors when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the treaty in 1996: the United States, China, Iran, Israel, Egypt, India, Pakistan and North Korea.