Peres offer Iran olive branch as Russia warns
MOSCOW / TEHRAN
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. REUTERS photoIsrael’s mounting conviction that Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon could have “catastrophic consequences,” Moscow warned yesterday while Israel’s president reached out to the Iranian people with a message of peace.
The debate over Iran’s nuclear program is “increasing the tension and could encourage moves toward a military solution with catastrophic consequences,” Mikhail Ulyanov, head of security and disarmament at the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Interfax news agency.
Speculation has risen in recent weeks, driven in part by comments made by Israeli officials, that Israel may soon launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities to slow or halt its controversial program.
Despite the heightened tensions, Israeli President Shimon Peres extended a peace feeler to the Iranian people.
“We were not born enemies and there is no need to live as enemies. Do not allow the flags of hostility to cast a dark shadow over your historic heritage,” Peres said during a marking the 63rd anniversary of the founding of Israel’s Parliament. “Your people are a sensitive people that aspire for friendship and peace, and not for conflicts and wars.”
Israel and Iran had close relations before the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Israel and much of the international community believe Iran’s nuclear enrichment program masks a covert weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies. The “noise” about Iran’s nuclear intentions “has political and propaganda objectives that are far from inoffensive,” Agence France-Presse quoted Ulyanov as saying.
Joint naval drills with neighbors
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last month that any decision by Israel on whether to attack Iran in a bid to halt its nuclear program remained “very far away.” However, Israel’s chief of military intelligence, Gen. Aviv Kochavi, told a security conference last week that Iran had enough radioactive material to produce four nuclear bombs.
But Ulyanov disagreed. “We prefer to base our evaluations on the actual facts, which are that Iran’s nuclear activity is under strict monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA],” he said.
Meanwhile, a senior Iranian Navy commander announced the country’s readiness to stage joint naval drills with neighboring states, Fars news agency reported. “Iran is ready to hold joint naval exercises with neighboring countries including Oman. Iran’s Navy invites the Omani Royal Navy to visit Iranian ports, including Bandar Abbas,” Commander of the Iranian Navy Adm. Emir Habibollah Sayyari said Feb. 8.
Iranian Gen. Nasrullah Nejad has also said the military is ready for any possible engagement with the “enemy,” and that Iran is readying its Iranian-made hunter aircraft fleet.