/ 6 November 2011

Peres says attack on Iran ‘more and more likely’

Israeli President Shimon Peres warned late Saturday an attack on Iran was “more and more likely,” days before a report by the UN nuclear watchdog on Iran’s nuclear programme.

He told Israeli private television’s second channel: “The intelligence services of the different countries that are keeping an eye on [Iran] are worried and putting pressure on their leaders to warn that Iran is ready to obtain the nuclear weapon.”

“We must turn to these countries to ensure that they keep their commitments … this must be done, and there is a long list of options,” Peres declared.

Israel on Thursday completed a major civil defence drill in the Tel Aviv region aimed at simulating a response to conventional and non-conventional missile attacks, the military said.

Israel has also successfully tested what local media called a “ballistic missile”, which a defence ministry official described to Agence France-Presse as a long-scheduled “test firing of the rocket-propulsion system”.

On Wednesday, Ha’aretz newspaper reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were seeking to win Cabinet support for a strike on Iran, which Israel and the West suspect is looking to build an atomic bomb.

Ha’aretz said no decision had yet been taken on any military strike, and that a November 8 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear watchdog would have a “decisive effect” on the decision-making process.

Previous IAEA assessments have centred on Iran’s efforts to produce fissile material — uranium and plutonium — that can be for power generation and other peaceful uses, and also in a nuclear bomb.

But the new update, which diplomats say will be circulated among envoys on Tuesday or Wednesday, will focus on Iran’s alleged efforts to put the radioactive material in a warhead and to develop missiles to carry them to a target.

Israeli experts have described the Iranian programme as “alarming”, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said the report would prove “beyond doubt” its military aims. He hoped Iran would be targeted by a new series of international sanctions.

On Monday, Barak was forced to deny media reports that he and Netanyahu had already decided to launch an attack against Iran over the opposition of military and intelligence chiefs.

But he said “situations could arise in the Middle East under which Israel must defend its vital interests independently, without having to rely on other regional or other forces”.

Ha’aretz said a majority of the 15 members of Israel’s security Cabinet were against an attack on Iran for the moment. Only that body can take such a monumental decision.

Many Israeli leaders stress that Israel is incapable of launching such an operation without having coordinated it with the United States and without a US green light.

A poll published by Ha’aretz on Thursday found Israeli public opinion divided on a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, with 41% in favour, 39% opposed and 20% undecided.

Israel has consistently warned all options remain on the table when it comes to Iran’s nuclear programme, which the Jewish state and Western governments fear masks a drive for nuclear weapons.

Iran denies any such ambition and insists its nuclear programme is for power generation and medical purposes only.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Thursday that Iran was “prepared for the worst”, warning the United States against heading for confrontation with Tehran. – AFP