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A fresh voice adds to the alarm over Iran´s nuclear ambitions (LONDON TIMES) By Bronwen Maddox 01/27/05)Source: IRANcouldbelessthanayearawayfrom“thepointofnoreturn”inacquiringnuclearweapons,accordingtoShaulMofaz,theIsraeliDefenceMinister. LONDON TIMES LONDON TIMES Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
IRAN could be less than a year away from “the point of no return” in acquiring nuclear weapons, according to Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Defence Minister.

“I feel that none of the Western countries can live with Iran having a nuclear capability,” he said in London yesterday before today’s remembrance service for the victims of Auschwitz, and after a meeting with Tony Blair.

Under lengthy questioning he did not reject remarks by Dick Cheney, the US VicePresident, who speculated last week that Israel might be prompted to attack Iran’s nuclear sites to prevent it from obtaining the nuclear bomb.

The first route should be diplomacy by the US and the European “troika” — Britain, France and Germany — Mr Mofaz said.

But he noted that diplomacy had so far failed to achieve a “full stop” of the programme, and that “the goal should be the full stop”. “If they achieve nuclear power [weapons], it is a threat to the free world,” he said. “I believe in the long run this is the main threat that will exist, not only against Israel but against Western countries.”

His remarks are bound to stir up the past week’s alarm that Israel has a pre-emptive military strike high in its planning after a series of aggressive comments by the Bush Administration, including the President.

Certainly Mr Mofaz, in his choice of language, did nothing to dispel such speculation, although he stopped short of saying that Israel had such a plan.

The Defence Minister stuck to the formal line that diplomacy must be tried until it was seen to have failed. “I believe the negotiations that took place between Iran and the troika and Mohamed ElBaradei [director-general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency] have achieved something by suspension of the Iranian nuclear programme,” he said.

But almost in the same breath he dismissed their value, saying “the dialogue [Iran] had with the European troika was mainly to buy time”.

The way forward now, he argued, “is by leadership of the US with the European countries, taking this issue to the UN”, where “the tools should be sanctions and very deep inspections in all nuclear sites in Iran”.

He dismissed Iran’s claims to be interested only in civilian nuclear power. “We know they have a very high desire to achieve the goal of nuclear power [weapons] in their hands.”

He added that “they already have long-range surface-to-surface missiles”.

He defined “the point of no return” as the “enrichment of uranium”, the most controversial part of the Iranian nuclear work as it can be used for military as well as civilian purposes.

It goes almost without saying that such belligerent talk suits Israel’s — and Washington’s — purpose, given their shared scepticism of the value of the European troika’s diplomacy.

However, independent analysts are sceptical of the detail of Israel’s alarming claims. Gary Samore, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the London-based think- tank, who was an anti-proliferation negotiator for the Clinton Administration, believes that Iran is still “a couple of years away” from nuclear weapons potential. (Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd. 01/27/05)

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