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Israel’s Peres says Iran attack ‘more and more likely’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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JERUSALEM, (AFP) – Israeli President Shimon Peres warned late on Saturday that 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 Israel’s privately owned Channel Two television: “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 added.

In recent days, speculation in Israel has grown about the possibility of an pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

On Wednesday, the Haaretz newspaper reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were seeking cabinet support for an attack.

And the military last week carried out what Israeli media called a “ballistic missile” test, as well as a large-scale civil defence drill simulating the response to conventional and non-conventional missile attacks.

Officials said both events were long-planned and unrelated to the speculation about military action, but both helped drive talk here about whether Israel is ramping up plans for an attack.

On Sunday, Haaretz reported that US officials had failed to secure a commitment from Israel that it would coordinate any plans to attack Iran with Washington.

Citing unnamed US officials, Haaretz said US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had used a recent visit to Israel to make clear Washington did not want to be surprised by any Israeli attack, but received only a vague response from Netanyahu and Barak.

Still, media reports here suggest no final decision on a strike has been taken and that a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear watchdog on November 8 would have a “decisive effect” on decision-making.

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

However 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 fissile material in a warhead and develop missiles to carry them to a target.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in comments published on Sunday. the report is based on “counterfeit” claims.

“I believe that these documents lack authenticity. But if they insist, they should go ahead and publish. Better to face danger once than be always in danger,” several Iranian dailies quoted Salehi as sayingIsraeli defence analysts have described the Iranian programme as “alarming,” and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said the report would prove “beyond doubt” its military aims. He said he hoped Iran would be targeted by a new package 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 regional or other forces.”

Haaretz said a majority of the 15 members of Israel’s security cabinet were still against an attack on Iran. Only that body can take such a momentous decision.

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