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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

U.S. defense secretary: Can't assure Israel that Iran won't attack

Last update - 21:06 05/12/2006

U.S. defense secretary: Can't assure Israel that Iran won't attack

By News Agencies

Robert Gates, nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld as U.S. defense secretary,
on Tuesday said Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons and its leaders
were lying when they said the program is strictly civilian.

He said he was not sure Iran would attack Israel with such weapons because
"the risks for them (Iran) are enormously high." But he also said the United
States could not assure Israel that a nuclear attack by Iran would not happen.

"I don't think anybody can provide that assurance," he told the committee.

When asked at the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his
nomination whether he believed Iran was seeking a nuclear weapons capability,
he responded, "Yes, sir, I do."

Asked if he believed Iran's leaders were lying, Gates responded, "Yes, sir."

Iran says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity, but the West
suspects Tehran is using the civilian program as cover to build an atomic

Russia: Tough sanctions on Iran would backfire
Tough sanctions on Iran to punish it for pursuing uranium enrichment would be
counter-productive, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said
before major powers met to discuss possible measures on Tuesday.

"We believe it is irresponsible to impose these kind of sanctions," Lavrov
told reporters on the margins of a meeting of the Organisation for Security
and Cooperation in Europe in Brussels.

"We would achieve the opposite result if we do that," he said of Western
efforts to get Russia and China to agree a UN Security Council resolution
setting out penalties on Tehran for refusing to halt nuclear activities the
West suspects are aimed at building an atom bomb - a goal Tehran denies.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday warned Europeans his country
will consider any decision against its nuclear rights an act of "hostility."

His statement came as political directors from United Nations Security Council
permanent members Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States, as
well as Germany were to attend the latest round of talks in Paris on the
diplomatic impasse between the West and Iran over its nuclear program.

"I'm telling you in plain language that as of now on, if you try, whether in
your propaganda or at international organizations, to take steps against the
rights of the Iranian nation, the Iranian nation will consider it an act of
hostility," Ahmadinejad said, addressing thousands of people in northern Iran.

"And if you insist on pursuing this path, it (Iran) will reconsider its
relations with you," he warned European nations.

"Our path to reach the nuclear summit is in the final phase, and no more than
one more step is needed," Ahmadinejad told the rally.

"Iran possesses the nuclear fuel cycle completely and by God's will it will
undertake necessary measures to produce nuclear fuel for all of its nuclear
power stations," he said.

Despite Russia's refusal to agree to tough sanctions on Iran, the French
foreign minister said Moscow is likely to back a decision to pressure Tehran
on is nuclear plan.

Russia has consistently refused to agree to measures that would be seen as a
punishment of Tehran for its refusal to meet the August 31 UN deadline to
abandon uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or
atom bombs.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said after talking with his
Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday that progress had been made on the
wording of a sanctions resolution.

"I think that we can now reach an agreement on the text," he told reporters
after meeting Lavrov on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting.

"We are in agreement with Russia to adopt sanctions against the Iranian
programme of proliferation."

EU diplomats say the sanctions called for in the text will be largely

However, they say unanimous approval of even mild sanctions will send a strong
signal to Tehran that the world is determined to stop Iran obtaining nuclear

Also Tuesday the country's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said at a regional
forum in Dubai that American "unilateralism" could cause more conflict in the
Middle East.

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