Israeli FM: "We know Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons"
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Oct. 22, 2003
Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom said Wednesday that Israel remains skeptical about Iran's intent to suspend its program for enriching uranium - which can be used in nuclear bombs - following a briefing on the European ministers' discussions in Tehran.
Shalom met late Wednesday with Joschka Fischer, a day after the German foreign minister, along with his British and French counterparts, secured a pledge from Tehran to open its nuclear program to unfettered inspections by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog and suspend uranium enrichment.
"I reiterated the importance of preventing Iran - a country committed to the destruction of Israel and one of the world's sponsors of terrorism - from acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities," Shalom said.
"We are very skeptical about the intentions of Iran. We know they are trying to develop nuclear weapons. We know their true intentions," Shalom said. "If they are going to use at any time nuclear weapons, it is against Israel."
Israel accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism and of supporting extremists in the Palestinian territories.
"The Iranian nuclear program is a danger to the Middle East and indeed, the entire world and it must be stopped."
As part of the agreement, Iran said it will sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that gives inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, the right of unfettered access to the country before the agency's next board meeting in Vienna on Nov. 20.
"I hope it will be real supervision," Shalom said of the inspectors. "If it will help us stop nuclear weapons in Iran, it will be helpful."
Shalom also stressed that Israel remains committed to the peace process along the lines of the so-called road map, but criticized the Palestinians for their lack of commitment.
"But the only way we can make progress on this issue is for the Palestinian Authority to take the strategic and moral decision to once and for all dismantle the terrorist infrastructure," he said.
"Sadly Yasser Arafat remains a key obstacle to this process. As long as he remains there will be no progress toward peace," Shalom added.
Although neither minister would discuss the details of German-brokered prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah, Shalom expressed hope there would soon be a breakthrough. The swap would involve trading Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers for several hundred Arab prisoners, including Palestinians.
Shalom thanked Fischer and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whom he met with earlier in the day for their efforts in the exchange and urged them to continue.
Israel also continues to seek information about its pilot Ron Arad, who has been missing since 1986, Shalom said.
Earlier in the day, Shalom visited the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin and denounced growing anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.
"Today we are dealing with a new phenomenon that is spreading ever more widely in the Arab and Muslim world," Shalom said.
His remarks come just a week after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's told a summit of Islamic countries, to applause, that "Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them."
The comments were condemned by Israel, Germany, the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. However, France blocked the European Union from ending a two-day summit Friday with a harshly worded statement condemning Mahathir, arguing that it had no place in an EU declaration.
Shalom urged Germany to work with its partners in Europe to get the union to condemn the
"Israel and the EU do not always agree on the issue, but our shared history and interests make us natural partners," Shalom said. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1066799674707&p=1008596981749