British Foreign Secretary William Hague 390 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jeff Overs-BBC/handout)
British Foreign Secretary William Hague advised Israel on Sunday not to attack
Iran, saying that the international sanctions against Iran should be given a
chance to work.
His comments in a BBC interview came as US National
Security Adviser Tom Donilon met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in
Jerusalem for talks focused on Iran.
Neither the Prime Minister’s Office
nor the US put out a statement after that two-hour meeting, and Netanyahu said
nothing about it – or the Iranian nuclear program – at a speech immediately
after the meeting at the opening of the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem.
Donilon also met with Maj.-
Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, his Israeli counterpart. He is scheduled to meet
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday before returning to
Donilon’s visit is taking place just two weeks before
Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Washington for AIPAC’s annual policy
conference, and for an expected meeting with US President Barack Obama, where
Iran is likely to dominate the discussion.
Hague, meanwhile, said he did
not think “the wise thing at the moment” would be for Israel to launch a
military attack on Iran.
“I think Israel, like everyone else in the
world, should be giving a real chance to the approach we adopted: very serious
economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, and the readiness to negotiate with
Iran,” he said.
Hague said that there were two possibilities if Iran went
ahead with its nuclear program.
“Either, they [Iran] will be attacked,
and there will be a war, or there would be a cold war, in which Iran for the
long term would be subject to very intensive economic sanctions. They
would find that other nations in their region developed nuclear regions, and
they would be in permanent standoff with those countries.”
This would be
“like the Cold War, but without many of the safeguards against accidents and
misunderstandings that we had in the Cold War,” he said.
came the same day that CNN aired an interview with the chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff, US Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who said an Israeli attack on Iran
would be “destabilizing” and “not prudent.”
Meanwhile, UN nuclear
inspectors headed to Iran on Sunday for talks.
“We hope to have a couple
of good and constructive days in Tehran,” Herman Nackaerts, deputy director
general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, said at the Vienna
airport, as the five-member team prepared to depart.
priority remains, of course, the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear
program,” he told reporters, making clear he wanted to see concrete results in
the discussions with Iranian officials.
Western diplomats have played
down any hopes of a major breakthrough in the February 20-21 meeting, even
though it comes just a few days after signs of a possible opening for diplomacy
in the long-running nuclear dispute.
“I’m still pessimistic that Iran
will demonstrate the substantive cooperation necessary,” one envoy
The outcome, after an inconclusive first round of discussions last
month, could determine whether the international standoff over Iran’s uranium
enrichment program escalates further or tensions reduce.
But the US and
EU expressed cautious optimism on Friday over prospects that Iran may be willing
to engage major powers in new talks. They stressed that any resumed negotiations
must be sustained and focus on the nuclear issue.
US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Iran’s letter
to Ashton last week might mark a step forward.
Iran’s letter to Ashton –
who handles contact with Iran on behalf of the US, Britain, France, Russia,
China and Germany – proposed resuming the talks and said Tehran would have “new
initiatives” to bring to the table.
“In these negotiations, we are
looking for a way out of Iran’s current nuclear issue so that both sides win,”
Iranian state television quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying on
Sunday.Reuters contributed to this report.