- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 1, 2005

TEL AVIV — Israel yesterday warned that it cannot accept Iran as a nuclear power and that the international community only has a few months before the diplomatic offensive to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon becomes futile.

“Israel, and not only Israel, can’t accept a situation in which Tehran will have a nuclear weapon,” said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a press conference yesterday. “We are making the necessary preparations to be ready for such an eventuality.” The prime minister said that the United States and France are heading the worldwide effort to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear program — a project that the Iranians claim is their sovereign right and is solely for civilian purposes.

The memory of Israel’s surprise strike in 1981 on Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak still stirs concern about a new pre-emptive attack to take out Iran’s nuclear program. But in the last two years, Israel has tried to maintain a low profile on Iran, preferring to cast the problem as an international threat rather than solely a regional one.

Indeed, Mr. Sharon said yesterday that the international community should exhaust every effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and that he thinks that those efforts could still be fruitful.

Talks between Iran and European powers are scheduled to resume in the next two weeks after a collapse of negotiations in August led Tehran to resume work toward nuclear capability, Reuters reported. Tehran has adopted a tougher stance on the issue since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August.

“The next few months are the last chance of the world to do something,” said Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Israeli parliament. “The world is not acting properly, and therefore we should bear in mind that there is some chance that the Iranians will proceed and at the end of the day they will prevail.”

If the international community should fail, Israel is not helpless, Mr. Sharon warned without offering any details. In response to a question of whether Israel has a military response to the Iranian nuclear threat, the prime minister said “definitely.”

A repeat of the 1981 Osirak strike is highly unlikely because the Iranians have spread their nuclear program throughout the country at several underground locations. That has raised questions about whether Israel has the capability to stop Iran before it obtains a nuclear weapon.

Germany recently agreed to sell Israel two Dolphin class submarines worth $1.2 billion. The submarines are thought to have the potential to launch nuclear missiles, giving Israel an added deterrent by adding second-strike capability in the case of an Iranian nuclear attack.

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