Shalom urges Annan to condemn Iran

FM tells 'Post' he called on world counterparts not to let Ahamadinejad's statement go unattended.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom urged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to "use his high moral position" to "issue a strong condemnation of the statement of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Israel."

Shalom, who is visiting Paris, spoke with Annan by telephone late Thursday afternoon.

Shalom told The Jerusalem Post he had issued a message to all his counterparts around the world, asking them "not to let this statement go unattended."

Earlier, Shalom thanked French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy for his "very courageous statement condemning the declarations of the president of Iran."

Shalom could scarcely have dreamed of better timing for his visit to Paris. Ahmadinejad's outrageous declaration caused an uproar in France and strong condemnation by Douste-Blazy. "If indeed these words were said, they are unacceptable. I condemn them with the utmost firmness. I therefore asked for the ambassador of Iran to be summoned to the Foreign Ministry for explanations. For France, Israel's right to exist is not to be challenged..."

The issue of Iran was at the core of the meeting between Shalom and Douste-Blazy. Shalom told Douste-Blazy, "Iran is a serious threat, not only for Israel. Its long-range missiles can reach any European country, any European capital city and also the south of Russia.

"There is little time left before Iran will achieve full nuclear capacity," he added. "It is important for the whole Western world to stand united in its position against a military nuclear capacity for Iran."

On Wednesday, the French Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded condemnation of the suicide attack in Hadera. "France condemns without reservation the terrorist attack... This is a cowardly and cruel action."

Departing from a long-established tradition, the ministry's statement did not imply that Israel had its share of responsibility for the situation leading to the terrorist attack.

The quality of relations between France and Israel has greatly improved in the past months, as was highlighted by the successful visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Paris last July. Besides Israel's decision to pull out from the Gaza Strip, two other elements have led to this rapprochement: the Iranian nuclear crisis and the murder in Beirut of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, a personal friend of French President Jacques Chirac.

Shalom said there was "a very positive upswing in the relations between France and Israel."

The pro-Arab lobby in France in general and within the French Foreign Ministry in particular was severely impacted by the recent indictment of two leading figures of French diplomacy, Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Serge Boidevaix and Ambassador to the UN Jean-Bernard Merimee. Both were allegedly bribed by the Iraqi regime in the oil-for-food scandal.