Israel Warns of Iran Nuclear Plans

By GAVIN RABINOWITZ
Associated Press Writer

August 1, 2005, 7:33 PM EDT
 
http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-israel-iran-nuclear,0,1865410.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines


JERUSALEM -- Israeli officials expressed alarm Monday over Iran's decision to resume uranium processing, warning that unless the international community steps up pressure on the Islamic state, Iran will develop nuclear weapons.

However, Israeli experts said the world, led by the U.S., should deal with the problem.
 Iran says its nuclear enrichment program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel and the United States believe Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

"If the Americans, Europeans and Russians will not take Iran to the (U.N.) Security Council and put real pressure on them, they will produce nuclear capabilities," said Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran, which already posses the Shahab-3 missile -- a weapon capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Europe, Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East -- is a threat to the Jewish state.

"There is a growing understanding in the international community that the Iranian nuclear program is not benign," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

Despite the mounting concern over the resumption of uranium processing and the recent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-liner, as Iran's president, officials said that Israel was relying on the international community, in particular the U.S., to stop Iran.

"Israel has already said that its policy today is to leave the stage to the international players, the United States and Europe," said Efraim Halevy, the former head of Israel's Mossad spy agency. "I think Israel is acting wisely."

Officials questioned Israel's ability to destroy Iran's nuclear installations. Israeli warplanes bombed the unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak near Baghdad in 1981. They said Iran's nuclear installations, unlike the Iraqi reactor, are dispersed throughout the country -- many in populated areas, with sophisticated defense systems.

"I believe this is beyond our abilities," said Uzi Even, a former lawmaker and a Tel Aviv University expert on nuclear weapons.

Iran should fear the U.S., not Israel, Steinitz said. "The Americans have proven their ability to strike many sites simultaneously."