February 4, 2010

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon raised on Wednesday the possibility of using force to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, something Tehran vehemently denies it is seeking.

“Iran’s plan will probably be stopped by a regime change or, if there is no other choice, by a recourse to force to deprive Iran of its nuclear arms production capabilities,” Yaalon told a security conference in Herzliya, northern Israel.

“It is important to continue to make clear to the extremist regime in Iran that all options remain on the table and that ignoring the demands of the international community will probably end in bitter tears for Iran,” he added.

[efoods]Yaalon also called on the international community to impose even harsher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Iran is already under three sets of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council for its refusal to stop enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors but also fissile material for an atomic bomb.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised the possibility Tehran might come to an agreement with world powers over its enrichment programme.

“It is important to make Iran understand that the leaders of the international community are determined to the point of putting this matter at the top of their list of priorities, even if they have to pay an economic or even military price.”

Israel, the United States and a number of other Western countries accuse Iran of using what it claims is a purely civilian nuclear energy programme as a cover for developing atomic weapons. Iran denies that.

Yaalon’s reference to force was not new. Both the United States and Israel have consistently refused to rule out the use of force if diplomatic efforts to rein in Tehran are unsuccessful.

Israel has already acted in similar circumstances.

In 1981, Jewish warplanes bombed an Iraqi nuclear plant outside Baghdad. The prime minister Menachem Begin said the attack was necessary because the facility was about to become operational and would have permitted the regime of Saddam Hussein to manufacture nuclear weapons.

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