EU spokesperson: EU not opposed to a civilian nuclear program in Iran.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, TOVAH LAZAROFF
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called upon the European Union to take a more significant role in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
In speaking Monday night in Jerusalem's Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Livni warned that the international community's hesitation in confronting Iran could cause a domino effect that would result in the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other states and terrorist organizations.
"Iran is the bully of the neighborhood and the international community cannot afford to not stop it," Livni said.
Iran's Israel denial (editorial)
"The EU is a key player in preventing the advancement of the rogue state of Iran and its nuclear proliferation. Iran is no less of a threat to Europe than it is to Israel," Livni said.
France and Britain, both permanent council members, are expected to present their latest drafts on possible United Nations sanctions against Iran in the United States on Monday after press time.
But a draft circulated on Friday from the two European nations revised the UN resolution, narrowing proposed sanctions on Teheran for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment program.
The new proposal is aimed at winning the support of Russia and China, two other permanent council members that complained that the originally proposed sanctions were too broad.
Speaking in Brussels on Monday night, the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana said he expected that both Russia and China would support the new draft, the final text of which would be completed in a few hours.
Emma Udwin, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, defended the European Union's position on Iran. EU leaders are expected to come out with a statement on Iran when they meet in Brussels at the end of the week.
In speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, she said, "The EU is very strongly determined not to see the emergence of a new military nuclear power in Iran."
But she added that it was not opposed to its development of uranium for civilian use. The EU, she said, has also stepped up its support for civil society in Iran.
"You shouldn't see this as a softening of the EU's position" against military nuclear power in Iran, she said, but rather it is an attempt by the EU to reach out to the people of that country.
The European Commission on Monday also reached out to people under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza. It agreed to a three-month extension of a special aid deal for the Palestinians that bypasses the Hamas-led government.
The refusal of the Islamic militant group to recognize Israel has caused international aid to the Palestinian Authority to dry up, creating an acute financial crisis.
A temporary World Bank-supervised alternative that bypasses the Hamas government expires at year's end and "it is highly important" it is extended by another three months, said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
"We see that the situation in the Palestinian territories deteriorates," she told reporters.
The decision is expected to be endorsed by the 25 EU leaders at a two-day summit opening Thursday, diplomats said. It took effect in July and has already been extended once.
Since the start of the year, the European Union has provided some $863 million in aid for Palestinians. Of this, $266 million has gone through the emergency aid program guaranteeing 1.3 million Palestinians access to water, sanitation and health care and providing income support payments to about 1 million Palestinians left destitute by their government's financial crisis, including many public service employees who have gone unpaid.
Iran has pledged $250 million in aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, the latest sign of increasingly close ties between the Islamic group and Teheran.
A Foreign Ministry source told the Post that Israel supported international efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering in the West Bank and Gaza even as it argued that the actions and statements of its Hamas leaders make its government unworthy of international support.
In addition on Monday, Livni called for a significant upgrade in Israel-EU relations and a new strategic model for the relationship.
"Even though we share the same values, the image of Israel in Europe is different," Livni said. "On the street, the image of Israel represents false perceptions of Israel and not Israel's values. The image of Europe in Israel is also different than Europe really is, especially when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict."
AP contributed to this report.
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