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Friday, December 22, 2006

Sneh: Time to decide on military option regarding Iran is nearing

Last update - 23:15 22/12/2006   

Sneh: Time to decide on military option regarding Iran is nearing
By Haaretz Service and Reuters

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh (Labor) said Friday, as the United Nations prepared to discuss a resolution on sanctions against Iran, that the time for Israel and the rest of the world to decide what to do about Tehran's pursuit of nuclear power is fast approaching.
"The time for the international, and also the Israeli, decision-making point is coming closer," he told Israel Radio.
Sneh implied that effective sanctions would preclude the necessity for a military assault, saying: "Right now I think that we are truly approaching what is really the last time, that if the international community does what it needs to do - and not in a weak or pathetic way, but in a determined way... in ways that cause suffering to this regime, which is sworn to wipe us out - then there will be no need to weigh other options."
Sneh maintains that an attack is not the preferable option, but the delayed response of the international community makes alternative options seem less successful.
He said he hopes Israel would not get to the point where it would have to evaluate the militaty option.
The deputy defense minister spoke as Europeans and the United States were hoping for an early vote over a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Iran's nuclear work. However, Russia's UN ambassador said further negotiations would prevent adoption for at least a day.
Diplomats on Friday said the UN Security Council is likely to vote on the resolution on Saturday so final differences between the European sponsors, Russia and the U.S. can be resolved, diplomats said Friday.
Qatar's UN Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser said the council will meet Friday afternoon and he expects the latest text to be amended. "But taking action, until now I think, will be tomorrow morning," he said.
British and French diplomats, who had been hoping for a vote Friday, said a delay was likely.
"I do not think there is going to be a vote tomorrow [Friday]," Moscow's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters after talks among six key nations on Thursday.
"Maybe Saturday, yes, but clearly we will need tomorrow for further thinking and maybe further discussions of the draft resolution," Churkin said, adding that there were several unresolved issues in the UN Security Council draft.
Iran has vowed to continue its nuclear program despite the resolution, even if it is approved by Russia. Russia is building an $800 million light-water reactor for Tehran at Bushehr that is exempted in the resolution.
The draft demands Tehran end all uranium enrichment work, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants as well as for bombs, and halt research and development that could lead to atomic weapons.
The sanctions include a ban on imports and exports of dangerous materials and technology relating to uranium enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water reactors, as well as ballistic missile delivery systems.
The United States and European drafters of the resolution - Germany, France and Britain - held out hope a vote could still be called on Friday after another round of discussions with Russia and China.
"We're close to a final text," said acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff. "There are some elements that are still of concern to us [and] to other delegations."
"We're hoping for a vote as soon as possible," Wolff said. "We'll see if we can do it tomorrow [Friday]."
Churkin, according to meeting participants, wanted to dilute a provision calling for a freeze on financial assets abroad of 11 individuals and 12 organizations associated with Iran's nuclear program to prevent them from buying dangerous materials. The list is attached to the resolution.
Churkin told reporters he approved of a ban on enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water nuclear reactors but that "other activities should not be in any way prohibited or restricted."
"Just two or three issues remain but those are difficult issues," he said, without elaborating.
In a concession to Moscow on Wednesday, the Europeans deleted a mandatory travel ban and instead told nations to notify a Security Council sanctions panel if any Iranians on the list transit through their countries.
The measure is a reaction to Iran's failure to comply with an August 31 UN deadline to suspend uranium enrichment work and resume negotiations.
The resolution is under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which makes enforcement mandatory but restricts action to nonmilitary measures. It would suspend sanctions if Tehran in turn suspended "all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, including research and development."
The bans would be lifted once Iran had fully complied with Security Council resolutions and directives from the International Atomic Energy Agency. But if Iran refuses, the council would consider further measures, the text says.

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