Israeli defense minister: Iranian nuclear program "a sword on Israel's neck"

May 31, 2012 9:32 am 

JERUSALEM, May 30 — Iran's nuclear ambitions constitute "a sword on the neck of Israel," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday.

"We are convinced that the Iranians are trying to lead the entire world astray and breach the directives of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) … The final aim of their visible actions is buying time and placing themselves in a position that will enable them to manufacture (nuclear) weapons," Barak told the annual conference of the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, which this year is entitled "Security Challenges of the 21st Century."

Tehran's nuclear drive is "a sword on Israel's neck," Barak stressed, noting that although the Islamic Republic has not yet attained an atomic bomb, its efforts to build one justify using the phrase.

"You cannot sleep quietly while the Iranians are methodically inching towards the point of no return … Once they obtain nuclear weapons, it will be too late to act," Barak said, emphasizing that Israel is different than other countries in that it "does not have the option to disregard the challenge."

Israel, along with some Western nations, has long accused Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons. Iran, however, denies the accusation and insists that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, such as power generation.

The defense minister lashed out at former heads of Israel's intelligence agencies who in recent months publicly criticized the government's saber-rattling on Iran and accused it of secretly plotting to launch a military strike against its scattered and heavily-fortified nuclear infrastructure.

Turning to the presumed disagreement between Israel and the United States on how to deal with the Iranian issue, Barak said that while the allies are engaged in "a continuous, very intimate and open discourse" with U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, "it is clear that there are differences regarding the tempo of the clocks' ticking (towards a military strike on Iran) … It isn't a secret that our watch is ticking faster."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused the six world powers negotiating with Iran of lowering their demands for an acceptable solution to the long-standing nuclear issue.

"In the initial round of talks (in Istanbul of Turkey last month) Iran was required to stop enriching uranium to 3.5 percent, while now they (the P5+1) no longer insist that it halts all enrichment," Netanyahu said.

The P5+1 group include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the United States., Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany.

Netanyahu recently stated that Tehran's goals were clear. "It wants to annihilate Israel and is developing the means to realize this goal," he said. (PNA/Xinhua)

RSV/mmg

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