Liberman: Iran not ready to give up nuke program

FM meets with Chinese leaders in Beijing, insists on Israel's right to defend itself.

Liberman and China's Vice President Xi Jinping 370 (photo credit: Azriel Shnitzer)
Liberman and China's Vice President Xi Jinping 370
(photo credit: Azriel Shnitzer)
Iran is not ready to give up its nuclear program in spite of the harsh sanctions leveled against it, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told reporters in Beijing on Friday.
He insisted that if no diplomatic solution was found, Israel had a right to defend itself. “We are keeping all options on the table,” he said.
“We prefer to the issue resolved through talks, or other ways, but if that does not happen, we have a right to defend ourselves,” he said.
He traveled to China to celebrate 20 years of diplomatic ties between Beijing and Jerusalem.
But Iran’s nuclear program was an important part of his talks with Chinese leaders.
China, which has close energy and trade ties with Iran, has urged a negotiated solution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and has long opposed unilateral sanctions on Iran. It is one of five countries with veto power on the 15-member UN Security Council.
“For us, it’s crucial to explain our position to our Chinese partners in the hope they understand our concerns, our problems,” Liberman said, adding that Israel would “continue the dialogue” with China.
He spoke a day after the Belgium-based SWIFT, which facilitates the bulk of global cross-border payments, said it would disconnect designated Iranian financial firms from its messaging system. The move shuts down a major avenue through which Tehran does business with the rest of the world.
“We believe that the international community can stop Iran. It is a matter of will and determination,” he said.
Liberman said he supported Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s position that the six power talks in April by the UK, US, France, Russia, China and Germany represented the last diplomatic chance to halt Tehran’s nuclear program.
“If the international community’s efforts fails, the consequences will be very difficult for the world. It would bring about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” It could politically unsettle the region and destabilize the global energy economy, he said.
In an interview with NBC’s Nightly News broadcasted at the end of last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Israel not to strike Iran.
“I do not think that military action by Israel would be justified,” he said. “I do not think the Israelis should take that action now. We have told them that they shouldn’t,” Cameron said.
He said he believed that sanctions was still the preferred path. “We need to keep up the pressure to encourage them [Iran] to make the right choice,” he said.
Cameron said he understood why Israel felt so strongly about Iran’s nuclear program, particularly given that Teheran has said it wants to wipe Israel off the map.
“We take nothing off the table. We do not rule out taking action or supporting action, but that is not where we are right now,” he said.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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