Gates: Nuclear Iran not inevitable

In Moscow, Russia assures MKs it won't send S-300s to Iran for now.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS
April 12, 2010 01:05
3 minute read.
Robert Gates

Gates points 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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The United States has not abandoned efforts to prevent the nuclearization of Iran or shifted to a policy of containment, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday, on the eve of a two-day summit in Washington on the nuclear issue.

Asked on NBC’s Meet the Press program whether a nuclear Iran was inevitable, Gates said: “We have not drawn that conclusion at all and in fact, we are doing everything we can to try and keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”

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The leaders of 47 countries, sans Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, will be hosted by President Barack Obama at the summit to discuss how to secure nuclear materials such as separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

“The threat of nuclear war, as we used to think about it during the Cold War, has actually decreased,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on the same NBC program. “But the threat of nuclear terrorism has increased,” because so much nuclear material “isn’t under lock and key in many places in the world.”

The US is working with France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany to craft a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

The potential economic pressure of sanctions is part of a plan to persuade Iran that it would be less safe with a nuclear weapon than without, Gates said. The plan also includes a stronger missile defense system to guard against an Iranian assault, he said.

Clinton dismissed a statement last week by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran has “complete mastery” of nuclear technology and can’t be prevented from using it.

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Iran’s claims “may or may not be accurate,” Clinton said. “Their belligerence is helping to make our case every single day.”

Countries that had doubts about whether Iran’s intentions were serious enough to warrant sanctions are being persuaded by US evidence and Iran’s own actions, Clinton said.

“The Iranians have been beating down the doors of every country in the world to try to avoid a Security Council resolution,” she said on NBC.

Clinton said Israel had much to contribute to the nuclear security summit even though Netanyahu chose to skip it. She said the world’s biggest concern on nuclear security was that terrorists will get control of bomb-making material, and that Israel can do much to help thwart that.

Netanyahu decided not to attend the conference and to send Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor instead, because he believed Turkey and other Muslim nations would make an issue of Israel’s nuclear program.

Some Arab and Muslim countries intend to use the conference to pressure Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel’s policy is neither to confirm nor deny that it has nuclear weapons.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the world on Sunday of turning a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear program and said that he intends to raise the issue at the summit in Washington.

Erdogan said Iran’s nuclear program was being scrutinized because of its membership in the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency whereas Israel, which has not signed a nonproliferation treaty, is “free to do what it wants.”

“We are disturbed by this and will say so,” Erdogan told reporters before his departure for Washington on Sunday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, in a meeting on Sunday with families of French Righteous Among the Nations – gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust – that the issues for discussion at the summit needed to be broadened.

“Israel values the summit on preventing nuclear proliferation,” Ayalon said. “The summit should not just discuss preventing terrorist organizations from acquiring nuclear weapons but also rogue and terrorist states, like Iran. It is important to stop Iran now as time is running out; we can measure it in days and weeks.”

A Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee delegation, led by committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima), received assurances from top Russian government officials, parliament members and advisers to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on a trip that ended on Sunday that the delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran would continue to be delayed.

The Russian officials criticized Iran for rejecting a Russian proposal to send some of Iran’s uranium to Russia for enrichment for non-military purposes.

The delegation, which signed an accord initiating ongoing inter-parliamentary dialogue with the Duma and the Federation Council, included MK Amir Peretz (Labor), coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Israel Beiteinu faction chairman Robert Ilatov and Likud MK Miri Regev.

The MKs told their Russian counterparts that the sanctions on Iran must be serious to succeed.

“Russia’s position on Iran will undoubtedly be influenced by seeing the consensus in Israel on the issue, as demonstrated by coalition and opposition MKs speaking in one voice,” Hanegbi said.

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