ayatollah iran 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel urged the international community on Friday to threaten Iran with sanctions if it doesn't abandon its nuclear ambitions, following new threats from Tehran to block UN inspections of its atomic sites.
Israeli officials said they remain hopeful that concerted international diplomacy can end the crisis, but that a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities - led by others - is possible.
The Iranian regime, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, should be presented with a clear choice: "Either they totally cease their nuclear weapons program or they endanger their relationships with the entire organized international community."
"We believe the combination of fanatical ideology together with nuclear weaponry is a combination that no thinking person can feel comfortable with," Regev added.
Two years of acrimonious negotiations between Tehran and the West have not managed to halt Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is designed to produce energy, not weapons.
Israel thinks Tehran is closer to the "point of no return" than Western countries do, reasoning that point is not when Iran might have a bomb, but when it might have the technology to produce the fissile component of nuclear warheads.
Israeli defense officials have said that once Iran resumes its enrichment of uranium, as it has announced it would do, it would be able to produce fissile materials in six to 12 months.
On Thursday, France, Britain and Germany, backed by the US, said the issue should be referred to the Security Council - a position Israel endorsed, Regev said. But they stopped short of urging the 15-nation council to impose sanctions on Tehran.
Iran responded Friday by threatening to stop allowing the short-notice inspections of its nuclear sites if the Security Council were to confront it over its atomic activities.
"Iranian people do not allow foreigners to block their progress," state-run radio quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying.
Israel considers Tehran to be its greatest threat. Recent statements by Ahmadinejad calling for Israel's destruction and Russia's plans to sell Iran missiles and other defense systems valued at more than $1 billion have only fueled those fears.
Last month, Israel's military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said he did not believe diplomatic pressure would put a halt to Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Still, Israeli officials have continued to say that international diplomatic pressure is the best way to end Iran's nuclear program, with military action considered only as a last resort. Last month, before his stroke, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel wouldn't lead the fight against the Islamic state's nuclear ambitions.
Israeli combat jets knocked out Iraq's unfinished nuclear reactor more than two decades ago in a lightning strike. But military experts have said a similar attack on Iran's nuclear project would be far more complex, because facilities are dispersed and some are hidden underground.
On Friday, a member of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, lawmaker Ran Cohen, said Israel "definitely is not considering military action because it would only encourage radical (Islamic) groups to increase their power. "
But another committee member, Ephraim Sneh, said while Israel is not preparing to carry out a unilateral military strike, "it doesn't mean it's not feasible."
Greed and naivete are preventing the international community from putting the screws on Iran, Sneh said.
The Iranians "are masters of deception, and what they are doing, they gain time, and the international community is just debating and discussing, but nothing is done," Sneh said.
"Maybe they (the international community) don't feel threatened. Maybe they feel the threat is addressed only to Israel, and not to them. ... I'm (also) sure there is a great deal of greed behind it. Maybe some governments don't want to lose the Iranian market. Maybe some of them have oil concessions there."