Israel Depending on Int'l Community To Stop Iran's Nuclear Program

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel is depending on pressure from the international community to stop Iran from achieving its nuclear goals and is warning that Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons would be a global, not just a regional threat.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi announced on Tuesday that his country would not be deprived of its "legitimate right to use nuclear technology, particularly [uranium] enrichment for providing fuel for nuclear plants."

The International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA) has demanded that Iran suspend uranium enrichment by the end of this month, as part of the proof that it is not trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran is also being asked to sign an additional NPT pact permitting stricter inspections.

Tehran has balked at the idea, but Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said that the country will continue with its obligations under the current NPT and do anything that "will not damage our national security and national interests."

Nuclear power plants can be fueled by enriched uranium but if the substance is highly enriched it can be used to make nuclear bombs.

Traces of weapons-grade uranium have already been found by IAEA inspectors at two sites in Iran this year. Iran insisted the material was brought in on equipment it had purchased abroad and does not signal that the country is secretly producing the substance.

The IAEA has asked Iran to produce a detailed list of the equipment it has purchased and from whom.

Tehran signed an agreement less than a year ago with Moscow, in which Russia agreed to supply Iran with nuclear fuel for the next ten years.

But Khatami said that his country wants to pursue progress and be self-sufficient by exploiting the "abilities and expertise" of its own people.

Iran and Russia, who is helping Iran to complete construction of its reactor in Bushehr have insisted that the reactor is merely for civilian purposes but Western experts and Israel have long suspected that Iran is using its development of nuclear power as a cover for the development of its atomic weapons' program.

Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani called on the Islamic world in a speech two years ago to obtain nuclear weapons in order to obliterate Israel. Iran openly declares its hatred of Israel and its desire to wipe Israel off the map.

Nevertheless, Israel said it is leaving the problem in the hands of the international community.

"Israel is working through the International Atomic Energy Agency on that," said Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled. "How effective [it will be] remains to be seen."

Peled said that while the recent revelations that Iran is enriching uranium is "not a surprise" it is nevertheless, "very worrying."

"We don't spare any opportunity to express our concern [about] the threat to the region and world security," Peled said.

Israel might be Iran's first target, but Iran is "a menace to all its neighbors," Peled said.

Recently, Iran delivered its advanced Shihab-3 ballistic missile to the elite Revolutionary Guard.

The missile has a range of some 800 miles, able to hit Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel from deep within its territory and reportedly will have the capability to carry a non-conventional warhead.

Iran is also developing a Shihab-4 missile, which will have a range enabling it to reach Europe and possibly the east coast of the U.S.

"Terrorism, hijacking of planes, anti-aircraft missiles it all begins with Israel [as the target]," Peled said. "Iran might begin with Israel, but if people think that will be the end of the game, they are very, very wrong."

But Iranian expert Menashe Amir said that Tehran is afraid of a confrontation with Washington.

If Iran does not comply with IAEA demands, Iran could be "seriously indicted" and the U.S. might refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council, which could slap economic and political sanctions on Iran, Amir said.

"Iran is clever enough to prevent a direct confrontation with the U.S.," he said. "[Iran] knows exactly who the U.S. is and what power [it has]...It will do its utmost to prevent [a confrontation]."

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.