(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Egyptian and Saudi Arabian intentions to begin or revive their nuclear programs in the face of Iran's continued race toward nuclear power present an "apocalyptic scenario" for Israel as well as for the rest of the world, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Lieberman's remarks came a week after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced a decision to restart his country's nuclear program. On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country had begun operating 3,000 centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium.
"If Egypt and Saudi Arabia begin nuclear programs, this can bring an apocalyptic scenario upon us," Lieberman told the Post. "Their intentions should be taken seriously and the declarations being made now are to prepare the world for when they decide to actually do it."
Lieberman also said Pakistan was a major threat to Israel due to the political instability there and the fact that the country had "missiles, nuclear weapons and a proven capability."
"We hope there will be stability and the [Pakistani] nuclear weapons won't fall into radical hands," he said. "If the Taliban or [al-Qaida leader Osama] bin Laden get control [of Pakistan] they will have nuclear weapons for terror use and they don't hide their opinions about Israel."
Lieberman, whose office is in charge of coordinating Israel's efforts against the Iranian threat, blasted International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei as a major obstacle to the West's efforts to impose further sanctions on Iran.
"He is part of the problem, not part of the solution," Lieberman said. "ElBaradei's behavior has not succeeded in solving anything like North Korea or Libya's nuclear programs. And instead of criticizing Iran, he finds it right to criticize Israel."
Lieberman said ElBaradei was delaying the UN Security Council's consideration of a new round of sanctions by not publishing the new IAEA report on the status of Iran's nuclear program.
"They [the IAEA and ElBaradei] are allowing Iran to stall for time and to launder its nuclear program," Lieberman said.
Referring to Ahmadinejad's 3,000-centrifuges announcement, Lieberman said that Israel was not surprised but that Iran still had a "way to go" before it would succeed in operating the centrifuges to the point that they could produce enriched uranium. On Tuesday, Military Intelligence said Iran could produce a nuclear weapon by the end of 2009.
Lieberman said Israel needed to ignore ElBaradei and to work on its own - together with other Western countries - to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic. He said the international community finally understood that Iran was not just a threat to Israel but to the entire Free World.
"We are trying to establish sanctions outside the UN," Lieberman said, adding that 70 percent of Iran's commerce was with Europe, the Gulf states and Canada. "If we can get these countries to cut their ties, this can have an effect."