Israel Preparing for Nuclear-Armed Iran, Sharon Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons but is not leading the international efforts to prevent that from happening, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Thursday.

"Israel and other countries cannot accept a situation where Iran has nuclear arms. The issue is clear to us, and we are making all the necessary preparations to handle a situation of this kind," Sharon told journalists in Tel Aviv.

Nevertheless, Sharon said that Israel is not leading the international campaign against such a development but is "in close contact with countries that are dealing with the issue."

Israel reaped international condemnation when it bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor shortly before it was to be activated in 1981. But a decade later, at the time of the first American-led Gulf war, world leaders admitted their relief that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had not obtained nuclear weapons.

The U.S., Israel and other countries suspect that Iran is secretly developing nuclear bombs under cover of its nuclear energy program. But Tehran and Moscow, which are helping Iran complete its first nuclear reactor, both deny the charge and say that the reactor is for civilian purposes only.

Sharon said that every diplomatic effort should be exhausted to pressure Iran into stopping its nuclear weapons program before any military action is taken and that he believed such efforts could still be "fruitful."

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel's policy was that the diplomatic track was the way to deal with the Iranian nuclear policy.

But the head of Israel's military intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, told lawmakers on Wednesday that if the international community does not succeed in bringing Iran to the United Nations Security Council by the end of March, "diplomatic efforts will be pointless."

Iranian affairs expert Menashe Amir said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken a tougher stance with the international community than his predecessors, believing that the West will back down first.

Nevertheless, Western nations must take a strong stand against Iran's policies, he said.

On Thursday, IRNA -- Iran's state news agency -- quoted Ahmadinejad as defending his country's right to develop nuclear technology. He said that the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had passed a resolution against Iran but backed down when he stood tough.

"We sent the message to Westerners that we would stand firm to the end and that we would never abandon our right, and when they realized [Iran] is firm in its stands, they backed off," Ahmadinejad said.

The IAEA's board of governors decided against sending the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council last week -- a move that the U.S. has advocated for some time now.

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