Peres: Iran wants to rule the region

President says situation with Iran more complicated than with Nazis, since Hitler didn't have nukes.

Peres speaks 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Peres speaks 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Recent language from Teheran is "unacceptable" and, contrary to its repeated denials, Iran is developing a nuclear bomb and wishes to rule the Mideast, President Shimon Peres told a meeting of the Foreign Press Association yesterday. The main purpose of the meeting was to outline details of the convention that Peres will be hosting in Jerusalem on May 13-15, but reporters were more interested in Peres's views on other issues - specifically Iran and Hamas. Peres said Iran trained and financed terrorism, but while the situation with Iran was more complicated than with the Nazis, because "Hitler didn't have nuclear weapons," he did not advocate military action as a preventive measure. He was still convinced that united action on the part of the world community could be just as persuasive. A Swiss reporter quoted an AP report stating that Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey had expressed disappointment that no member of her country's government had been invited to attend the convention celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary and asked the president if the absence of an invitation was in reaction to Calmy-Ray's recent visit to Iran. Peres explained that invitations had not been sent to governments but to individuals, and that in fact there had been at least one invitation sent to a representative of Switzerland, Karl Schwaab, the founder of the World Economic Forum that meets annually in Davos, where Peres is a regular invitee. On the subject of Hamas, Peres said talks with the group "would be like talking to a wall. "I can speak to the wall, but the wall will not reply." While Hamas may insist that Israel return to the '67 borders, it would continue in its refusal to recognize Israel, so any attempt to talk to Hamas would be a non-starter, he said. Peres was also asked about his tenure as defense minister, when he authorized the establishment of settlements. Peres retorted that the number of settlers prior to 1977, when Likud took over the government was 6,000. "There's a big difference between 6,000 settlers and 200,000 settlers," he said. "Up until the Six-Day War, there was no sign from the Arabs that they were interested in making peace with Israel. "Our main occupation was how to defend ourselves, so we built dual-purpose settlements, partly to defend ourselves and partly to let people run their lives." Peres claimed he never had any desire to govern the Palestinians and his policy was not to introduce settlements into Arab areas that were densely populated. "Our position was consistent and clear," he said. "It was better to have a Jewish state on part of the land than to have the whole of the land, but lose its Jewish character. I didn't change my mind."