Olmert: ‘still time to stop nu­clear Iran’

Agenda-set­ting con­fer­ence de­bates present and fu­ture se­cu­rity threats


THERE WAS still time to stop Iran from be­com­ing a nu­clear power, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert said on Wed­nes­day evening.

Giv­ing the key­note ad­dress at the pres­ti­gious Her­zliya Con­fer­ence, Mr Olmert said: “There is no near threat of a nu­clear at­tack on Is­rael.

“At the stage we are in, there is still time — though not un­lim­ited amounts — to stop Iran from go­ing nu­clear.”

Mr Olmert said that a diplo­matic so­lu­tion to the Ira­nian is­sue was “pre­ferred by us… whoever be­lieves that the diplo­matic so­lu­tion is prefer­able must start now to pres­sure Iran.” Mr Olmert said there was a large in­ter­na­tional coali­tion, in­clud­ing Arab coun­tries such as Saudi Ara­bia and Jor­dan, that did not want to see a nu­clear Iran.

At the same, the prime min­is­ter warned that “the Jewish na­tion is scarred with the Holo­caust, and won’t al­low it­self to again face a threat to its ex­is­tence. In the past, the world was silent, and the out­come is known. Our role is to re­frain from mak­ing this mis­take again,” he de­clared.

Ear­lier in the week, for­mer prime min­is­ter Binyamin Ne­tanyahu told the con­fer­ence that “rad­i­cal Is­lam has al­ready taken over the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship and is now at­tempt­ing to do the same in Le­banon. It chal­lenges the US ef­forts in Iraq and seeks WMDs in Iran. This is more than a se­cu­rity threat — it’s a po­lit­i­cal, moral and cul­tural threat, on Chris­tian­ity and Ju­daism as well as on the mod­er­ate branches of Is­lam.

“Our pri­mary mis­sion is to har­ness all pos­si­ble el­e­ments for the dele­git­imi­sa­tion and iso­la­tion of Iran… this will bring about ei­ther a stop to the nu­clear pro­gramme or a re­cep­tive pub­lic opin­ion for ac­tion against it.”

Mr Ne­tanyahu re­minded the pub­lic of the suc­cess­ful ef­fort against the apartheid regime and said that this could be re­peated to­day to­wards Iran. He said that a con­cen­trated eco­nomic boy­cott could be con­ducted by na­tions as well as by private cor­po­ra­tions and eco­nomic in­sti­tu­tions. “A world that didn’t stop the Holo­caust in the past can stop the next Holo­caust,” he said. “This is some­thing you can do — di­vest geno­cide.

“With re­gards to our means of self defence we must main­tain a low profile, but in terms of rais­ing sup­port for ral­ly­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity against the pro­po­nents of geno­cide, who will lead this bat­tle but us?”

Strik­ing a dif­fer­ent tone, Vice Pre­mier Shi­mon Peres told the con­fer­ence that the Ira­nian threat should not be ex­ag­ger­ated in view of the poverty and weak­ness of the regime. “Even if they do en­rich ura­nium, what will they give the chil­dren of Tehran for break­fast — en­riched ura­nium?”

Mr Peres added that Iran could be brought to its “nat­u­ral pro­por­tions” by diplo­matic and eco­nomic mea­sures.

Lead­ing Amer­i­can neo-con­ser­va­tive Richard Perle said that Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush would or­der an at­tack on Iran if it be­came clear to him that the regime was set to ac­quire nu­clear weapon ca­pa­bil­i­ties while he was still in of­fice. Mr Perle added that the present pol­icy of at­tempt­ing to im­pose sanc­tions on Iran will not cause it to aban­don its nu­clear as­pi­ra­tions, and un­less stopped, the coun­try would be­come a nu­clear power.

For­mer CIA di­rec­tor James Woolsey noted: “Iran is not re­motely in­ter­ested in nu­clear power for elec­tric­ity. The de­struc­tion of Is­rael is not the pol­icy of Iran, but its essence… achiev­ing weap- ons of mass de­struc­tion is part of this essence.” He added that much in the same way, Hitler’s pol­icy and essence was that of an­tisemitism.

Woolsey said that a US or Is­raeli at­tack on Iran was a bad sce­nario but the worst would be to al­low a nu­clear Iran. He also said that Is­rael should have made a move against Syria dur­ing the last war and that the US should have sup­ported such a ven­ture.

Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert de­liv­ers his key­note speech at the sum­mit

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