Russia, Europe, China warn Israelis on Iran
TEHRAN / BERLIN
A handout picture released by the official website of Iran’s presidency shows Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.
Israeli threats to attack Iran over its nuclear program constitute “extremely dangerous rhetoric” that could result in a “catastrophe,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned yesterday as world powers moved to promote a diplomatic solution to the issue.
“The militant statements that Israel or somebody else is ready to use violence against Iran or against another country in the Middle East … is extremely dangerous rhetoric,” Medvedev told reporters on a visit to Berlin. The Russian president called for calm from all parties, urging them to avoid threats. “All this could lead to a very big conflict and that would be a catastrophe for the Middle East,” he said.
“There is no serious proof that Iran is going to create a nuclear warhead,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in response to a question about the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report during a visit to neighboring Armenia. “During my last contact with Iranian officials, including the president, I received the assurance that they were preparing proof” showing they are not producing nuclear weapons and that they are ready to cooperate, Medvedev said. “But unfortunately there has not been movement in this direction.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres warned on Nov. 5 that a strike against Iran was becoming more likely. “The possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer to being applied than the application of a diplomatic option,” Peres said. Germany’s Foreign Ministry called for “greater political and diplomatic pressure” on Iran to comply with international commitments on its nuclear program if the UN report reveals further defiance, while French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said sanctions should be toughened but “everything must be done” to avoid a military conflict.
Barak plays down talk of war
Also yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said that while Beijing was firmly opposed to any use of force, “the Iranian side should also show flexibility and sincerity.” “China always holds that the Iranian nuclear issue should be properly solved through dialogue and cooperation,” Hong told a daily news briefing. “At present, it is imperative to prevent new turbulence in the Middle East security situation.” Ahead of the release this week of a new report on the Iranian program from the International Atomic Energy Agency, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration expected the report “to echo and reinforce what we’ve been saying about Iran’s behavior and its failure to live up to its international obligations.” “We, of course, never remove from the table any option in a situation like this, but we are very focused on diplomacy,” he said.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak played down yesterday speculation that Israel intended to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, saying no decision had been made on embarking on a military operation. “War is not a picnic. We want a picnic. We don’t want a war,” Barak told Israel Radio before the release this week of the IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear activity. “[Israel] has not yet decided to embark on any operation,” he said, dismissing as “delusional” Israeli media speculation that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had chosen that course. He added, however, that Israel had to prepare for “uncomfortable situations” and ultimately bore responsibility for its own security. Avigdor Lieberman, the hawkish foreign minister of Israel, said only “crippling sanctions” would be able to thwart Iran, the Maariv newspaper reported. As an answer, Iran’s defense minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi yesterday said Iran would strongly respond to any strike. “Any adventurous and hostile act against Iran will face a strong, swift and stern response by the Iranian armed forces,” Gen. Vahidi was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff