Lieberman: Civilian nukes can be converted

Lieberman: Ahmadinejad biggest danger to Israel since Hitler; Germany: report lessens pressure.

Steinmeier 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Steinmeier 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran could convert a civilian nuclear program into a military one within months, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday. "Ever since Hitler we have not seen a [man] like Ahmadinejad who wishes to destroy Israel," he stated. "We cannot be calmed by the fact that the Iranians are only pursuing a civilian program at the moment. We are taking the worst case scenario into account." Lieberman was responding to a no-confidence motion proposed by the NU/NRP and United Torah Judaism parties, "We have not been sitting idly. This government has many shortcomings, but there has never been an [Israeli] government that treated the issue so thoroughly," he said, adding that Israel was acting in full cooperation with the US on the matter. Meanwhile, Germany's foreign minister said US intelligence agencies' verdict that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program reduces "time pressure" for a solution to the issue, according to a report published Monday. Germany, along with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, has been at the forefront of efforts to address concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran insists its program has only peaceful purposes. In a major report earlier this month, US intelligence agencies concluded that Teheran stopped developing its nuclear weapons program four years ago. "The negative news is that the American services are sure that Iran worked on a nuclear weapons program until 2003," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted as saying in an interview with the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "The positive news is that the time pressure for a political solution of the problem has been reduced - but that does not change the task," he added, the newspaper reported. "The task remains to prevent Iran from pushing its development far enough that, at the end, it can produce weapons-capable products." Steinmeier added that he sees "a great readiness to use creatively the extra time that has been won" on Washington's part. "However, I have doubts as to whether the necessary readiness also is there on the Iranian side," he was quoted as saying. Steinmeier did not say how much extra time for a solution the US report might have bought. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the US turnaround a "victory" for Iran's nuclear program, suggesting it shows the success of his hard-line stance. Steinmeier said first meetings between Iran's new top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana "did not go positively." He stressed that only a united international community - including Russia and China, which so far have been skeptical about tightening sanctions - could persuade Iran to relent. "The pressure on Iran must not be given up," he said. Iran, meanwhile, received a first shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia on Monday for its Bushehr reactor, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. Russia has been assisting the Iranians in the construction of the nuclear power plant and announced earlier Monday that the first shipment of nuclear fuel was on its way to Iran.