Int'l Community Dragging Its Feet on Iran, Israel Charges

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The international community is dragging its feet in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions. Had it done so already, the threat would already be past, Israel's vice premier said on Wednesday.

The deadline for Iran to comply with a United Nations demand to halt uranium enrichment or face sanctions passed on Aug. 31, but the international community gave negotiations one more chance to bear fruit.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his position on Wednesday that his country would not "stop for even a moment from the path toward using nuclear energy" because of the prodding of the West. A last-minute Iranian proposal on Tuesday to allow France to enrich uranium for Iran on Iranian soil met with a cool international response.

The U.S. is expected to seek sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council as soon as next week, but Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres chastised the international community for not dealing with the Iranian threat a long time ago.

"If the countries of the international community would have acted, we could have cancelled the Iranian danger," Peres said on Wednesday. "The great fear is that the Iranian nuclear capabilities would be used for terror. All world leaders should unite in order to stop Iran."

Iran is a key backer and trainer of the Hizballah terrorist organization in Lebanon, which waged war against Israel for 34 days this summer, firing more than 4,000 Iranian- and Syrian-supplied rockets at northern Israel.

Peres called the Iranian compromise of allowing France to enrich Iranian uranium a "cover-up" and not a solution.

"The Security Council set a deadline for an answer from the Iranians. The Iranians failed to meet it, but the negotiations continue," Peres said. "If you don't say what you want, it's okay, but if you say what you want and it is not met, this weakens your power."

The issue of Iran's nuclear program is a main subject in talks that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is holding with U.S. allies in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is meeting with Rice on Wednesday evening, said he would tell her that he believes Iran represents an "existential threat" to Israel, reports said.

Nevertheless, Israel has been careful to emphasize the fact that it believes Iran is an international problem and represents a threat to the entire world.

Rice said that she hoped there was still time to resolve the issue. "But the international community is running out of time because soon its own credibility in terms of enforcing its own resolutions will be ... a matter of question," Rice said in a press conference with Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Tuesday.

The U.S., Israel and other Western nations believe that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a means to cover a clandestine plan to obtain atomic weapons - a charge Iran denies.

Ahmadinejad took an unexpected step on Wednesday to prove that his country's nuclear program is peaceful. He authorized a plan whereby foreign tourists to Iran can visit nuclear facilities, according to the head of Iran's Tourism and Cultural Heritage Organization, Esfandyar Rahim Mahsaii.

"This authorization has been issued since the Iranian nuclear activities are peaceful," Mahsaii was quoted as saying by the official Iranian news agency, IRNA.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.