US steps up diplomacy to steer Israel away from pre-emptive attack on Iran (INDEPENDENT UK) DONALD MACINTYRE JERUSALEM 02/20/12)
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America´s top general yesterday gave his clearest public warning yet
against a "destabilising" Israeli strike on Iran as a senior US
security official arrived in Jerusalem amid expectations that he
would urge Benjamin Netanyahu to give sanctions time to bite.
The Israeli Prime Minister met Tom Donilon, Washington´s National
Security Adviser, after General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the
US joint chiefs of staff, declared that it was "not prudent at this
point" for Israel to launch an attack on Iran´s nuclear facilities,
which would not "achieve their long-term objectives".
The US-led calls on Israel to stay its hand came on a day when Tehran
said it was halting oil exports to Britain and France in an
apparently pre-emptive retaliation against the EU´s decision to
boycott Iranian oil from July. The terse announcement followed
earlier contradictory signs over whether the regime would halt sales
to up to six countries in the EU, which accounts for 18 per cent of
Iranian oil exports.
The Mehr news agency later said crude exports to Britain and France
had been halted and the National Iranian Oil Company had sent a
written ultimatum to some European refineries, demanding that they
sign long-term agreements of up to five years or be cut off
altogether. No details were given of which countries had been
threatened, but Spain, Italy and Greece are among its biggest
Meanwhile in an interview with CNN, General Dempsey said Israel
recognised US "concerns" about unilateral military action against
Iran, but "I wouldn´t suggest, sitting here today, that we´ve
persuaded them that our view is the correct view".
He said sanctions and diplomacy were both "having an effect" and that
a military strike would be "premature". Asked about the mindset of
Iran´s leadership, he said: "We are of the opinion that the Iranian
regime is a rational actor. And it´s for that reason ... that we
think the current path we´re on is the most prudent path at this
His remarks were echoed by William Hague, Britain´s Foreign
Secretary, who repeated that a nuclear-armed Iran would result in
another Cold War in the Middle East. But he said sanctions and
negotiations needed to be given a "real chance" to convince Tehran
not to pursue a military nuclear programme. He added: "I don´t think
a wise thing at this moment is for Israel to launch a military attack
Mr Netanyahu is expected to hold talks next month with US President
Barack Obama when he travels to Washington for the annual conference
of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Iran´s foreign minister, Al Akbar Salehi, said yesterday that the
next round of negotiations between Tehran and six world powers would
be held in Istanbul. He gave no date for the talks and was adamant
that Iran would continue with its nuclear programme, which it insists
is for peaceful purposes. He said the country remained prepared "even
in the worst case scenario" of an external attack.
Earlier Associated Press quoted unnamed diplomats at the
International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna as saying Tehran was now
in a position for a major expansion of nuclear fuel enrichment at its
heavily guarded underground Fordo plant to levels that could be
quickly converted to produce weapons-grade material.
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