Peres warns Olmert: Attack on Iran could spark wide-scale war


President Shimon Peres has warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that a military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is likely to trigger a wide-scale confrontation, A British newspaper reported Sunday.


Peres is the first senior politician to warn the prime minister against an Israeli attack on Iran, with other politicians threatening an air attack if Tehran does not abandon uranium enrichment in what the West believes is a quest to develop nuclear weapons.


"The military path will not solve the problem," Peres said in an interview with Britain's Sunday Times. "Such an attack can trigger a bigger war."



Peres said he prefers the civilian path, adding that he has voiced this sentiment directly to Olmert. However, he declined to reveal what the prime minister had said in response.


Peres, a firm believer in international cooperation, added that Israel requires the cooperation of more nations in order to stop Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


The danger is not a nuclear Iran, Peres continued, but rather nuclear weapons in the hands of dangerous leaders like the Iranian president.


"If Switzerland announces tomorrow that it has nuclear weapons, would anyone worry?" said Peres.


"I recently told [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin that the Marxists say that religion is the opium of the masses. I say religion is the opium of leaders like Ahmadinejad," he added.


Peres said a serious attempt to cut the price of oil would help reduce Iran's ambitions to a more realistic level.


"The world has no choice - if nuclear weapons reach the hands of terrorists, it will be impossible to rule the world," he said.


In the interview, Peres also criticized American foreign policy, saying it relied too heavily on military strength in its attempts to bring democracy to the Middle East.


Peres said it would be wiser to use economic strength, saying, "If you suggest elections to the Saudis or to King Abdullah of Jordan they will refuse, as they regard democracy as a new religion and they want to remain Muslims. But if American businessmen offer high-tech companies, they would be most welcome."