Israeli Minister Presses Russia to Stop Building Iranian Reactor

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are expected to meet in an emergency session on Monday to discuss Iran's nuclear defiance. At the same time, an Israeli minister traveled to Moscow to try to persuade Russia to stop helping Iran build its nuclear reactor.

Iran ignored a United Nations deadline last week to halt its uranium enrichment -- a process that is necessary for the production of weapons.

A report last week from the U.N.'s top nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that instead of abiding by the U.N. restrictions, Iran had set up hundreds of new centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that his country's nuclear program was like a runaway train without breaks or a reverse gear.

"We dismantled the rear gear and brakes of the train and threw them away some time ago," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Iranian state-run radio.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was willing to meet with Iranian representatives if Iran suspends its nuclear pursuits.

"They don't need a reverse gear. They need a stop button," Rice said in a Fox News interview. "They need to stop enriching and reprocessing, and then we can sit down and talk about whatever is on Iran's mind."

Representatives of the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany were scheduled to meet in London on Monday to discuss what measures could be taken against Iran after it refused to comply with the U.N. ultimatum to halt uranium enrichment, wire reports said.

Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Liberman was in Moscow on Monday for talks with senior officials to try to persuade Russia to stop building the Iranian nuclear reactor in Bushehr, the Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

In the mid-1990s, Iran signed an $800-million deal with Russia to complete the reactor at Bushehr.

The U.S., Europe and Israel all believe that Iran is using the development of a civilian nuclear program as cover for making nuclear weapons. Iran denies it.

Russia has said it is opposed to Iran obtaining atomic weapons but it backs Iran's right to develop civilian nuclear power.

It's not clear how successful Liberman, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, will be in his quest. Previous attempts by Israeli leaders to persuade Russia to re-consider its nuclear and military relations with Iran have proved unsuccessful.

Israel expressed extreme concern last month over Russia's delivery of air defense missiles to Tehran, which analysts say will be used to protect its nuclear facilities against the possibility of an air strike.

Washington has said it is not planning a military strike against Iran but it has not ruled out the possibility if all other options fail to prevent the rogue state from obtaining nuclear weapons.

A report in Britain's Daily Telegraph over the weekend quoted an Israeli official as saying that Israel was negotiating with the U.S. to fly through U.S.-controlled Iraqi air space if it decided to carry out an aerial attack against Iran's nuclear facilities. Israel denied the report.

Israel has maintained all along that a nuclear Iran is a worldwide problem, not just a problem for Israel, despite the fact that Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map."

But Israel's attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor in Osirak in1981, which prevented Iraq from going nuclear, has raised speculation about whether Israel would carry out a similar attack on Iran.

Israeli leaders have pledged that they will not allow Iran to go nuclear but experts here have said that carrying out an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities would be much more complicated.

Iran has spread its nuclear facilities around the country and many of them are protected in underground bunkers. Stopping or slowing down the Iranian nuclear pursuit would require multiple, simultaneous successful attacks, experts say.

See Earlier Story:
Israel Unlikely to Change Russia's Mind on Iran (Oct. 17, 2006)

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.