U.S. must tighten pressure on Iran: Israeli minister (REUTERS) By Crispian Balmer JERSALEM, ISRAEL 07/12/12 11:24am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - The United States must do more to show Iran it is serious
about curtailing its nuclear ambitions because the current pressure
is not working, Israel´s vice prime minister said on Thursday.
Moshe Yaalon also fired a warning at the armed Hezbollah movement in
neighboring Lebanon, saying the Shi´ite group would be crushed if it
tried to attack Israel at the behest of Tehran in any future war.
Speaking just days before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
visits Jerusalem, Yaalon said Iran appeared to believe it was safe
from military attack or from further sanctions before November´s U.S.
"As long they perceive this, they don´t feel like they are under
pressure. That is a pity," said Yaalon, who is also Israel´s minister
of strategic affairs.
"It is up to the United States to try to change this perception in
Iran. This is crucial," he told Reuters, adding that Iran would top
the agenda during Clinton´s visit on July 15 and 16 -- her first trip
here in almost two years.
Western powers believe Iran is developing technology to build nuclear
weapons and have imposed an increasingly tough regime of economic
sanctions to make it reverse course.
Iran insists its atomic program is peaceful and has shrugged off the
latest round of sanctions, with a European Union embargo on Iranian
crude oil taking full effect on July 1.
"We´ve witnessed the impact of the sanctions in Iran, but up until
now the regime prefers to suffer rather than give up its military
nuclear capabilities," Yaalon said, adding that the time had come to
introduce "really crippling sanctions".
Reputed to have the Middle East´s only nuclear arsenal, Israel has
threatened to resort to force if it deems diplomatic and economic
means are failing. Yaalon repeated the threat, but made clear that he
thought Washington should lead the way.
"We believe of course that the military option should be the last
resort and we believe that someone else should be doing the job. But
we should be ready to defend ourselves by ourselves."
A former chief of staff in the Israeli army, Yaalon said he was sure
Hezbollah would jump to Iran´s aid if hostilities broke out, but
predicted it would soon regret any attack.
"Any provocation will be responded to by us, by charging them with
such a heavy price that they will ask for a ceasefire," he said,
sitting in the sun-filled gardens of the King David Hotel in central
Some Israeli officials have worried that Hezbollah, which is
estimated to have thousands of missiles ready to rain across the
border, might start trouble with Israel to divert attention from the
woes besetting its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Yaalon did not see such a threat and thought that Assad was doomed to
lose the violent power struggle gripping Syria.
"We are not sure when it will happen, but it will happen. From day to
day we have witnessed an acceleration of the process as a result of
the power that the opposition has succeeded in gaining," he said.
A junior Israeli minister said on Thursday that some Israelis were on
Syria´s borders with Turkey and Jordan looking to get humanitarian
aid to Syrians caught up in the fighting and to evacuate some of
those trapped by the violence.
"We are sending, as volunteers, many people ... to help in the
borders in Jordan and Turkey," said Ayoob Kara, a deputy minister and
a member of Israel´s minority Druze community, which has close ties
with fellow Druze in Syria.
"We sent food and clothes. This is humanitarian aid. We could not be
apathetic when every day Assad killed one or two hundred people," he
told Reuters, adding that he received messages every day from Syrians
seeking help. (Editing by Mark Trevelyan) (© Thomson Reuters 2012.
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