Halutz: Iran's going nuclear not just Israel's problem

"Iran's actions can't be perceived as an exclusively Israeli problem and shouldn't be treated as one"

January 9, 2006 23:22

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Iran's attempts to achieve nuclear capability are not Israel's exclusive problem, but that of the entire world, chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said Monday. Testament to this can be seen in the widespread international pressure being put on Iran, and condemnations, including criticism from Russia, he said. "Israel is in no rush. The whole world condemns Iran's actions - it cannot be perceived as an exclusively Israeli problem and should not be treated as one," Halutz said in a meeting with military reporters on Monday. Referring to Iran's announcement of plans to resume its uranium enrichment program, Halutz said: "They picked up the ball, now let's see what they do with that ball. There is no attempt being made by Israel alone to try to get them to put it down... their actions are condemned by the entire world." Without a doubt, Iran is standing on the edge, and sometimes, a small falling pebble can cause one to topple over the edge, Halutz said. "They must be made accountable - it is enough to view the steps Iran is taking to develop and attain nuclear capability. The steps could affect far more than Israel, and should be the cause of concern for others," he said. The announcement from Teheran generated swift warnings from Germany, Europe and the United States as well as the International Atomic Energy Association, which declared that the world was running out of patience. An Iranian government spokesman identified as Gholamhossein Elham told a news conference: "Iran will today resume nuclear fuel research as scheduled," Reuters reported. Washington urged Iran to observe its commitment to freeze uranium enrichment or face referral to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. Speaking about the Kassam threat, Halutz said that while Israel has the capability to deal with the rockets, such a move would mean violating moral values and crossing boundaries, a step he advised against. "It is not a question of technology; I believe in order to deal with the issue we need to uphold our moral obligations. It is not a question of dealing with the Kassam rocket manufacturers, or those who launch them, but the damage the area will incur," Halutz said. Such actions will cause "collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians," he said. While he did not rule out the possibility of launching a ground offensive in Gaza to halt the rocket attacks if the situation seriously escalates, Halutz noted that the number of rocket attacks has lessened in scope, but has yet to stop altogether. Not ruling out the possibility that the Kassam rockets distance capability could improve, the army has a number of options at its disposal, but the question remains whether to employ them, Halutz said, adding: "We can become far more aggressive and violent." Halutz's statements came just hours after two Kassam rockets landed in the southernmost point of the western Negev. All exploded in open areas, no one was wounded and no damage reported. According to the army, the rockets were fired near the southern Gaza security fence, an area outside the designated "no-go zone" located in northern Gaza established by the army two weeks ago after being identified as the main launching area for Kassam rocket attacks on Israel. In the West Bank, a special Border Police unit arrested Nur al-Din Tsufata, 24, an Islamic Jihad fugitive on Monday night in Tubas, northeast of Nablus. Tsufata had in his possession a Kalashnikov rifle and ammunition which were confiscated by security forces and he was handed over to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for questioning. Tsufata was arrested three years ago by the IDF for his involvement in terrorist activities on behalf of the Islamic Jihad, and was tried and sentenced in a military court to three years. He was released in October 2004 and immediately resumed his terrorist activities, which included purchasing weapons and explosives, and was in the midst of planning to abduct Israelis and use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of Palestinian security prisoners. In the morning, security forces arrested 10 Palestinian fugitives, most affiliated with Hamas and the Fatah Tanzim and one with Islamic Jihad. They were arrested in Hebron, Bethlehem and villages near the city, as well as in a village near Kalkilya and in Jenin.

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