FM to keep pressing for Iran sanctions

Livni insists Teheran is testing international community's reaction to US intelligence report.

Ahmadinejad pop star 224 (photo credit: AP)
Ahmadinejad pop star 224
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has launched a diplomatic offensive aimed at convincing the world of the need to move forward with sanctions against Iran despite the US intelligence estimate concluding that Iran stopped developing an nuclear weapons program in 2003. Livni's efforts come amid an appreciation in Jerusalem that if it was difficult to get Russian and Chinese support for stiffer sanctions when the conventional wisdom was that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, now that the American assessment is that the Iranians stopped their nuclear weapons program four years ago, it will be even more difficult to garner support for sanctions. Livni, currently in Slovenia for meetings with the country's leaders before Slovenia takes over the rotating presidency of the EU on January 1, said that Iran continued to violate UN Security Council resolutions calling it to halt uranium enrichment. She added that this technology would allow Teheran to further its nuclear program clandestinely and without international supervision. "While we are speaking, Iran continues to enrich uranium in order to gain the knowledge which it can then use for military purposes," Livni said. "It is clear to everyone that the world cannot allow this. Therefore, there can be no hesitation and there is a need to continue to stiffen the sanctions until there is a complete end to the enrichment activities." This is a message Livni is expected to take to Brussels on Friday for meetings there with EU officials. Iran is now testing the international community's reaction to the US report, Livni said, adding that the international community must not "let up." Livni said that the reaction from the leadership in the US and the EU since the report came out indicated there was widespread understanding of the need to keep the pressure on. Indeed, the EU's ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrián-Uzal, told reporters Wednesday that while the US report saying the Iranians stopped their nuclear weapons program was preferable to a report saying they had not done so, it was still clear that Iran was in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As such, he indicated sanctions were still in order. The Russians, however, seem far from convinced. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hinted Wednesday that the US report would affect Washington's push for a new set of UN sanctions. "We will assess the situation regarding a new UN Security Council resolution taking into account all these facts, including the US confirmation that it has no information about the existence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran," he told reporters. "We have no information that such efforts had been conducted before 2003, even though our American colleagues said it was so," Lavrov said. "Data that we have seen don't allow to say with certainty that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program." Russian President Vladimir Putin raised eyebrows in both Jerusalem and Washington last month when, during a trip to Teheran, he said there was no concrete evidence Iran was after nuclear weapons. The US intelligence estimate has just turned that assessment, widely ridiculed at the time, into the new conventional wisdom. Likud MKs Yuval Steinitz and Silvan Shalom stressed the ongoing threat of a nuclear Iran during events marking Hanukka Wednesday night. They dismissed the recent US report that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program, telling the dozens of supporters that gathered at their separate events that Israel must continue to seek the support of the international community to impose sanctions against Iran. Sheera Claire Frenkel and AP contributed to this report