Peres to European MPs: Iran world's greatest danger

President calls on EU to label Hezbollah "terrorist" group, Arab League to intervene in Syria.

Peres talks to EU press conference 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Vidal)
Peres talks to EU press conference 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Vidal)
“The greatest danger to peace in the world is the present Iranian regime,” President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
Peres described the regime as “a dictatorship cloaked in a religious mantle,” adding that Iran has “developed an imperial appetite.”
Nobody threatens Iran, he said, but Iran threatens others, endangering both Israel and the independence of Arab countries.
Peres also charged Iran with smuggling arms into many countries in order to undermine their stability.
The president, who began his address by noting that in 1942 most of the inhabitants of the town in which he was born were burned alive, was indignant that the Iranians continue to deny the Holocaust while calling for another one.
“Had my family delayed their emigration by 8 years, we would have been exterminated,” said Peres, whose immediate family left Europe in 1934.
Emphasizing that six million Jews had been murdered during the Holocaust while reflecting on a thousand-year-old Jewish presence in Europe, Peres said that more Jews had lived in Europe than in any other continent, but “alas, more Jews were murdered in Europe in the last hundred years than in the preceding two thousand years.”
Nevertheless, he did not forget to mention the righteous among the nations who “carried candles of light in the darkness” by saving Jews.
Dismissing Iran’s denial that it is building a nuclear weapon, Peres said that “a nuclear bomb in the hands of an irresponsible regime is an imminent danger to the world.” He commended the European Union and the United States for imposing economic sanctions on Tehran, and for making it clear that if the Iranians did not respond to such sanctions, there are other options on the table.
The president also warned that in addition to the nuclear bomb, Iran is constructing long-range missiles equipped with nuclear warheads that can reach the far corners of the world, including Europe. He queried as to why Iran is doing so, since Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had declared that Islam prohibits the production and use of nuclear arms.
Reminding his audience of the success the US had in placing the issue of human rights in the Soviet Union at the top of the world’s agenda during the Helsinki conference in 1975, Peres called for a clear moral voice encouraging the Iranian people in their fight for freedom against the regime in Tehran, adding that the ayatollahs should not be allowed to falsify the results of Iran’s upcoming elections.
Peres also underscored the manner in which Iran is destroying Lebanon by supporting Hezbollah, which carries out terrorist attacks throughout the country, and accused Iran of supporting terrorism in other parts of the world. He said Hezbollah has divided Lebanon religiously, politically and ethnically and appealed to the Europeans to recognize the terrorist organization for what it is, emphasizing that Hezbollah does not confine its activities solely to Lebanon.
“Recently, 20 terror attempts by Hezbollah were counted all over the world – in India, Thailand, Georgia, South Africa, the US, Egypt and Greece, among others. Last month, the government of Bulgaria, a member of this European Union, reported that it had identified that the terror attack in Burgas was carried out by Hezbollah. Five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian citizen lost their lives.
Cyprus recently arrested a Hezbollah terrorist planning a terror attack,” he said.
T urning to the Syrian civil war, Peres declared that President Bashar Assad’s actions affect the whole world as well as Syria, noting the nuclear installation and the arsenal of chemical weapons that Assad had built. While the nuclear installation was destroyed before becoming operational, the chemical weapons remain in Assad’s hands, allowing him to threaten not only the Syrian people, but the entire region and even Europe, he said.
The president suggested that the the best solution to put an end to the tragedies in Syria might be to empower the Arab League, of which Syria is a member, to intervene.
Intervention by Western forces, he observed, would be perceived as foreign interference, but in Peres’s view, the Arab League can and should form a provisional government in Syria to stop the bloodshed and the United Nations should support an Arab League force in the country.
With regard to the Palestinians, Peres was optimistic that peace remains attainable. The peace process already has an agreed beginning and an agreed solution of two states for two nations living in peace, security and economic cooperation, he said, and “the remaining disputed issues can and should be negotiated.”
He also paid tribute to Yitzhak Rabin, with whom he had laid the foundations for peace with the Palestinians.
“Now it is time to continue to renew the peace process,” he said. “We must continue to work with the Palestinian Authority, support its economy and achieve peace. A Palestinian security force was formed. You and the Americans trained it. And now we work together to prevent terror and crime.”
“There is no other solution,” he asserted in reference to the two-state solution. “It is not only our preference but the call of the present reality. Jordan, Israel and Palestine find themselves in a similar situation.
Terror endangers each of them separately and the three of them collectively. Collective dangers call for collective security.”
Voicing the highest regard for King Abdullah, Peres said that the Jordanian monarch, like his father, has proven to be committed to peace, and confirmed his belief that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is likewise dedicated to peace.
Declaring that Europe has been and continues to be a major partner in the region, Peres also expressed appreciation to the United States for what it has done and is doing to promote peace and fight terror, adding that US President Barack Obama will be a welcome and esteemed guest when he arrives in Israel next week.