Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Monday that Arab nations believe that Israel has undermined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and this is a major obstacle to nuclear disarmament.
"What compounds the problem is that the nuclear non-proliferation regime has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of Arab public opinion because of the perceived double-standards concerning Israel, the only state in the region outside the NPT and known to possess nuclear weapons," he wrote in The Herald Tribune.
Israel is largely believed to posses the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East and has refused to sign the NPT or put its nuclear facilities under the UN supervision.
Former US president Jimmy Carter confirmed in May 2008 that Israel has 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.
ElBaradei's remarks come amid speculations that the new administration of Barack Obama intends to engage Iran in direct negotiations over the country's nuclear program.
The UN nuclear watchdog has been investigating the Iranian program but its findings are often ignored by the international community.
"The UN and related agencies must be given adequate authority and funding and put in the hands of leaders who have vision, courage and credibility," the UN official added.
ElBaradei also blamed the US and Israel's unilateral policies for encouraging other nations to develop nuclear arms.
"Above all, we need to halt the glaring breach of core principles of international law such as limitations on the unilateral use of force, proportionality in self-defense and the protection of civilians during hostilities in order to avoid a repeat of the civilian carnage in Iraq and, most recently, in Gaza."