VIENNA — The UN atomic watchdog said Friday it will host talks on creating a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East after countries in the volatile region showed willingness to attend after a decade of stonewalling.

Member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requested in 2000 that such a forum take place but agreement on holding such a meeting remained "elusive" for over a decade, the agency said,

Now though, a letter from IAEA chief Yukiya Amano to member states in the Middle East "led to consultations indicating that a forum was possible this year", a statement said.

Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, although it has never admitted it. Elsewhere in the region, Iran and Syria have been accused of seeking to follow suit.

The November 21-22 forum at the IAEA in Vienna will study lessons learned in creating existing zones free of atomic weapons and how they might be applied to the Middle East, the IAEA said,

Nuclear-weapon-free zones already exist in Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central Asia, as well as in uninhabited areas like Antarctica, outer space and the seabed.