JERUSALEM, DEC. 14 -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir today proposed regional talks on water sharing and disarmament. He also indicated Israel may be ready to discuss dismantling the nuclear weapons it reportedly possesses.
His proposals reflect growing worry over conflicting reports of Iraq's nuclear capability and a drought that is draining water reserves in the Middle East.
Shamir spoke on Israel television on his return from talks with President Bush in Washington.
"I would like to add to the agenda of the peace talks today a discussion of regional ideas . . . to start with solving regional problems that are important to all countries in the region, like the water problem.
"It is conceivable that we will also have to find a way to add to these talks the very heavy subject that has been discussed a lot recently and that is reducing the amount of weapons in the region," he added on Israel television.
When asked if Israel was ready to dismantle nonconventional weapons, Shamir answered: "I said that Israel is ready to participate in such an effort that would reduce the amount of weaponry and that would limit weapons."
Washington Post staff writer David Hoffman reported from Washington:
Shamir's comments followed meetings in Washington this week with Bush, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
Shevardnadze, after seeing Baker in Houston on Tuesday, called for the creation of a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear and chemical weapons. Baker endorsed the idea but stopped short of saying he would ask Israel to give up the atomic weapons it is believed to possess. Shevardnadze subsequently met with Shamir in Washington.
The concept of limiting weapons on a regional basis has taken on renewed importance as a possible outcome of the Persian Gulf crisis. If Iraq's invasion of Kuwait is reversed without a war, U.S. officials have said they want to impose continuing sanctions on Iraq to limit its military might. Such sanctions might be easier for President Saddam Hussein to accept as part of a region-wide arms control effort.
However, arms continue to pour into the region, including excess conventional weapons from Europe. The United States has also pledged new arms shipments to Saudi Arabia and Israel.