Defense minister: Iranian nuclear weapons will change regional balance.
By E.B. SOLOMONT, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
WASHINGTON – Defense Minister Ehud Barak pushed for “severe sanctions” on Iran during a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday.Ahead of meetings with senior American officials in Washington later this week, Barak pushed for tough UN action on Teheran, including sanctions by the Security Council, during his meeting with Ban.“Nuclear weapons in Iran will change the entire strategic balance in the region,” Barak said, adding that the UN “must impose severe sanctions” against Teheran.Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress on Wednesday that Iran’s refusal to provide adequate information about its nuclear program left the international community “little choice” other than to impose tough sanctions. Testifying before Congress, she said the US and its partners were working on new measures against Iran.“We have pursued a dual-track approach to Iran that has exposed its refusal to live up to its responsibilities and helped us achieve a new unity with our international partners,” she told the Senate Appropriations Committee.“Iran has left the international community little choice but to impose greater costs and pressure in the face of its provocative steps.”Clinton said Wednesday that the US Congress could impose its own sanctions on the Iran, in addition to measures the US is pushing for in the UN Security Council.“We are now working actively with our partners to prepare and implement new measures to pressure Iran to change its course,” she said.Ahead of his meeting with Clinton and other US officials, the defense minister also raised the Goldstone Report with the secretary-general.The report is back on the UN agenda after a coalition of Arab states introduced a resolution expected to pass in the General Assembly on Friday. The resolution would grant a five-month extension to Israeli and Palestinian probes into Operation Cast Lead.Barak called the report “biased” and “one-sided,” and said it “harms the ability of democratic countries to fight terrorist organizations, particularly those operating from populated areas.” The meeting with Ban also addressed broad issues, including efforts to kick-start peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. But during the meeting, Ban criticized demolition plans in east Jerusalem and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to include Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb to a list of national heritage sites.Ban told Barak he “regretted certain recent developments” on the ground, according to a spokesman for the secretary-general, “including new demolition orders in east Jerusalem and the inclusion of holy sites in the occupied West Bank on an Israeli heritage list.”Ban also expressed his concern with the situation in Gaza, urging Israel to allow construction materials in. On Lebanon, the top UN official expressed concern over armed groups in Lebanon, and also called for an end to surveillance flights over the region.In a statement released by the Defense Ministry, Barak cited thousands of rocket attacks aimed at Israeli citizens. “Hizbullah is an army armed by Iran and Syria,” he said.He further demanded that Lebanon adhere to Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the war in 2006.Following his meeting with Ban on Wednesday, the Barak was scheduled to travel to Washington to meet with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Clinton and other figures, including Middle East envoy George Mitchell.Iran has failed to agree to a proposal by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, which would have Teheran ship low-grade uranium abroad, where it would be processed and then returned for use at an Iranian research reactor. Earlier this month, Iran announced it has started enriching uranium to 20 percent, seen as a step toward producing a nuclear weapon in the future. Experts have estimated that Teheran could be a year away from producing a nuclear weapon.Earlier this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to “chop off the hands from the arm of any attacker from any part of the world.”
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