Peres says US should intervene in Iraq


Israeli Foreign Minister Mr Shimon Peres said this morning he believes the United States will "intervene" in Iraq despite Baghdad's offer to allow weapons inspectors to return.

"The United States unequivocally said they want to intervene militarily in Iraq . . . I don't think they can go in any other direction," said Mr Peres on Israeli public radio.

He did not think Iraq's offer to allow UN weapons inspectors to return after almost four years, amid increasing US sabre-rattling, would succeed in defusing the crisis.

"The inspectors are honest people, but they would be faced with the regime of Saddam Hussein, which is a national mafia," he said.

Washington, Israel's chief ally, has dismissed the Iraqi offer as a mere delaying tactic.

Mr Peres also said Washington was making "extremely serious" efforts to tackle mounting tensions with Lebanon over Israeli charges that its northern neighbour is siphoning water from one of the main rivers feeding Israel's water reserves.

Both sides have agreed to a visit by a US delegation which began yesterday inspecting Lebanese plans to divert waters from the Wazzani river to villages inside Lebanon, reducing the flow into Israel's Sea of Galilee.

Israeli Prime Minister Mr Ariel Sharon said last week that the move was serious enough to be potential grounds for war.