Peres said to be against strike on Iran

Fri, Feb 24, 2012, 00:00

ISRAELI PRESIDENT Shimon Peres yesterday warned that Iran with a nuclear bomb would be a catastrophe and that Israel has a right to defend itself.

His comments followed a report earlier in the day in the Ha’aretznewspaper that said Mr Peres intends to tell US president Barack Obama, when they meet next weekend, that he believes Israel should not attack Iran in the near future, and that recent bellicose comments by Israeli officials amounted to “war-mongering”.

The position of president in Israel is largely ceremonial and it would be highly unusual for a president to advocate a position that contradicts that of the elected leadership, particularly on such a sensitive issue.

And, when he addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations in the afternoon, Mr Peres’s comments did appear to be in sync with the position of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak, both of whom have said Israel cannot accept a nuclear Iran, and that time is running out for action.

Mr Peres said Iran was the biggest threat facing Israel.

“Israel is an independent state and has the right to defend itself. When we say ‘all options are on the table’ we really mean it. Imagine that Iran wins – no country could prevent it from freely exporting terror or stop it dominating the world’s economy. Iran with a nuclear bomb is a catastrophe,” he warned.

Mr Peres will meet Mr Obama next weekend, the day before the US president hosts Mr Netanyahu at a White House meeting where Iran is expected to top the agenda.

Washington believes that recently adopted international sanctions imposed on Iran must be given time to work.

The chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, warned earlier this week that an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be “destabilising”.

However, Israel argues that with Iran transferring more of its nuclear programme underground and with Tehran continuing to develop its uranium enrichment capabilities, the window of opportunity for decisive military action is rapidly closing.

Mr Barak warned recently that Iran is entering an “immunity zone”, implying that it may soon be too late to stop Tehran making an atomic bomb.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore told Israeli leaders during a visit to the region last month that time must be given for sanctions to work and he stressed the importance of finding a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.