IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz on Tuesday condemned Vice Premier Shimon Peres for the latter's statements on Monday, which implied that Israel could attack Iran.
"Israel shouldn't lead the front against Teheran, because the problem affects everyone in the West," Army Radio reported Halutz as saying.
Earlier Tuesday, a former top military intelligence official said that Peres' threat that that "Iran could also be destroyed" was not accidental.
"The statement by Shimon Peres highlights the basis of Israeli deterrence and hints to Tehran that it too has a soft belly," Col. (Ret.) Shimon Boyas, a former head of the Iran department in military intelligence, told Army Radio. "A statement that was repeated three times was not said accidentally."
Peres said Monday that "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map."
"Teheran is making a mockery of the international community's efforts to solve the crisis surrounding Iran's nuclear program," Peres told Reuters, adding that "Iran presents a danger to the entire world, not just to us."
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Peres's vehement expressions came the same day that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote to US President George W. Bush proposing "new solutions" to their differences in the first letter from an Iranian leader to an American president in 27 years, Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said Monday.
In the letter, Ahmadinejad proposes "new solutions for getting out of international problems and current fragile situation of the world," Elham said.
Peres did not say who should act against Iran if it continues with its nuclear program, but implied military action should be led by the United States, pointing to the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israeli officials have indicated that Israel would join any international operation against Iran.
Peres urged China and Russia to join Western efforts to impose sanctions on Iran. The two countries have been reluctant to back such proposals in the UN Security Council. If all world powers are united against Iran, military action can be avoided, Peres said.
"We can prevent all of this threat, without weapons, if there will be unity," Peres said, adding that the Security Council had to act on the matter. "If the crucial moment comes and they are incapable of taking [action] or making a policy...then they endanger their existence as an important world body," he said.
Ahmadinejad's letter may also contain ideas on how to resolve the conflict over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Yet neither Teheran nor Washington provided any information regarding the content of the letter or the proposals it contains.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Monday that the Iranian president's letter to Bush could create a "new diplomatic opening," but also warned that the letter did not reflect a softening in Iran's position.
Larijani refused to give details of the letter's content, but said, "Perhaps it could lead to a new diplomatic opening. It needs to be given some time."
"There is a need to wait before disclosing the content of the letter, let it make its diplomatic way," Larijani said in an interview with Turkey's NTV television.
Larijani added, however, that the "tone of the letter is not something like softening."
He also warned against any US attack against Iran.
"If they have a little bit of a brain, they would not commit such a mistake," he said. "Iran is not Iraq. Iraq was a weak country, it did not have a legitimate government. Iran is a powerful country."
The White House announced late Monday afternoon that the letter of Iranian president Mahmuod Ahmadinejad has arrived. Spokesman Fredrick Jones said that the National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley would be the one in charge of examining the Iranian letter.
It is the first time that an Iranian president has written to his US counterpart since 1979, when the two countries broke relations after Iranian militants stormed the US Embassy and held the occupants hostage for more than a year.
The US sees the letter as no more than an attempt to influence world opinion on the eve of a United Nations Security Council new resolution regarding Iran. John Negroponte, the head of the US intelligence, said Monday that "certainly one of the hypotheses you'd have to examine is whether and in what way the timing of the dispatch of that letter is connected with trying in some manner to influence the debate before the Security Council."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will discuss the Iranian nuclear project this week with foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, known as the P5+Germany group.
The US is trying to form a broad coalition which will support a new UN resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN charter that would include the threat of sanctions against Iran if it does not comply with international demands regarding its nuclear project. China and Russia still oppose such a resolution and wish to maintain a non-sanction approach to Iran.
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