If world powers are not successful in efforts to contain the Iranian nuclear threat, an Israeli strike on Iran could become a reality, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said during a visit to Beirut, the Daily Telegraph reported Monday.
The French foreign minister suggested that time was indeed short for a solution to the Iranian threat. "There is the time that Israel will offer us before reacting, because Israel will react as soon as they know clearly that there is a threat."
"Israel will not tolerate an Iranian bomb. We know that, all of us," said Kouchner, adding that for this reason the world must work to "decrease the tension and solve the problem."
"Hopefully we are going to stop this race to a confrontation," Kouchner said.
The US, EU and UN are awaiting an expected response from Iran, set to be delivered on Wednesday, to the proposal for out-of-country processing of uranium for the purposes of fuel production.
If the proposal is rejected and additional sanctions sought, Kouchner expressed concern as to whether such sanctions would have the desired effect of dissuading Iran from a pursuit of nuclear weapons. "Certainly, the upper people in the Iranian government, they will not suffer from sanctions. But the people of the bazaar and the people on the street, the women and the youngsters, they will certainly suffer from that."
While dialogue is still on the agenda and sanctions may be a future step, Kouchner suggested that in the end, Iran's people - and not its regime - would be the ones to pay the price. "I have witnessed sanctions all over the world and it's always targeting the poor people more than the rich people."
"We are not looking for sanctions and as I said my personal experience is not to look for sanctions targeted on people. There is an opposition, people are demonstrating, very courageously they were in the streets. Why are we targeting them? I don't know. We are not for the time being looking for sanctions."
Also speaking on the Iranian issue was Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who asked world powers to exercise patience where Teheran was concerned, in an interview published Monday in the Vremya Novostei daily.
"Let's leave history to historians," said the deputy foreign minister, urging Western countries to cast aside suspicions and past failures and turn over a new leaf in negotiations with Iran.
Ryabkov, who was part of the Russian delegation to negotiations conducted in Geneva between six powers and Iran, expressed pride in the crucial role Moscow had played in building trust between the parties involved.
During the multilateral talks, Russia had offered to process a large percentage of Iran's declared low-enriched uranium stockpile, to be used in a small research reactor in Teheran. A draft agreement was constructed in Vienna last week, and on Monday Iran announced its partial agreement to the initiative.
Ryabkov was quoted as saying that the document, though "balanced and fair," only outlined a basic framework for the initiative, while the technical aspects had not yet been decided upon.
When asked about failed deals and Teheran's past refusal to cooperate with the West, Ryabkov stated that Iran has indicated that it could easily purchase fuel without submitting to "complicated schemes," and that its willingness to do so was a positive sign.
The deputy foreign minister explained that despite ongoing nuclear activity in Iran's Natanz reactor, there was no evidence that Iran was engaged in military nuclear activity, adding that it would not be possible to build confidence and seize the current momentum "if we assume that the Iranians are stalling."
Throughout the interview, Ryabkov stressed that despite media attention, the Teheran research reactor and the low-grade enriched uranium were not at the heart of the controversy, but only a way to implement cooperation and trust between the six powers and Iran.
Earlier in October, during US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's first official visit to Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a statement saying sanctions against Iran would be "counterproductive" at this point.