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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Apr 12th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Israel tries to play down minister's warning of attack on Iran
Israel tries to play down minister's warning of attack on Iran PDF Print E-mail
Written by Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem, The Guardian   
Monday, 09 June 2008


Israel yesterday attempted to play down a warning from a senior government minister that an attack on Iran was "unavoidable" if Tehran continued to develop nuclear weapons. The transportation minister, Shaul Mofaz, a key figure in Israel's dialogue with the US on Iran's nuclear programme, raised the prospect of a unilateral Israeli attack against Tehran on Friday, adding that international sanctions had been ineffective.

The threat, which is at odds with Israel's support so far for an international campaign to curtail and, if necessary, confront Iran's uranium enrichment programme, contributed to frenzied buying in the financial markets, where oil prices soared to a record $139, and sparked an international furore.

Yesterday, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said that "all options must remain on the table", adding that "tangible steps by the international community" were needed to "put pressure on the regime in Tehran".

Defence officials criticised Mofaz, saying his comments would make it more difficult for Israel to convince the international community to intensify its efforts. Political rivals accused him of exploiting Israel's fear of Iran for political gain.

A spokeswoman for Mofaz, Talya Somech, confirmed that he had been quoted accurately. She said Mofaz was expressing "his own opinion".

Israel's deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, said Mofaz, a former defence minister and a contender to replace the scandal-battered Olmert, had turned "one of the most strategic security issues into a political game, using it for the internal purposes of a would-be campaign in Kadima".

Kadima, the party founded by the former prime minister Ariel Sharon, leads the coalition government and has been thrown into turmoil by the latest corruption scandal surrounding Olmert.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, rebuked Israel for damaging diplomatic efforts aimed at reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions. "With unilateral military actions, countries are undermining international agreements, and we are at a historic turning point," ElBaradei said.

Iran retaliated against Mofaz's comments at the weekend, demanding action from the UN security council and accusing Israel of violating international law.

Israel bombed a Syrian target suspected of being a North Korean-built reactor last September. It also bombed an Iraqi reactor in 1981. But last week, while visiting Washington, Olmert called for tougher diplomatic efforts.


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