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Israel doubts Europe will stop Iran atom project

Reuters

December 26, 2011 | 12:09 pm

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during a conference for Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem on Dec. 25. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during a conference for Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem on Dec. 25. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Israel’s foreign minister questioned Europe’s commitment on Sunday to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“Unfortunately my impression is that some of the nations of Europe and senior figures there speak about sanctions more in order to calm Israel than to stop Iran’s nuclear programme,” Avigdor Lieberman said in speech to Israeli diplomats.

“And I tell you truly there is no need to calm us down. Any decision that we take shall be balanced and considered,” said Lieberman, an ultranationalist in Israel’s right-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speculation that Israel may attack Iran’s nuclear facilities was fuelled by a United Nations report last month that said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing an atomic weapon.

Israel sees Iran’s nuclear programme as an existential threat. Iran says its atomic activities are intended solely for the peaceful purpose of energy production.

In the speech, Lieberman called on Europe to take immediate and “courageous decisions” on Iran, saying “this is our expectation of the international community”.

Earlier this month, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak urged Europe to impose crippling sanctions on Iran, saying it was “time for urgent, coherent, paralysing” steps targeting Tehran’s oil trade and central bank.

Barak has sought to ease suspicions Israel is planning military action against Iran and possibly keeping its main ally, the United States, in the dark.

He told Israel Radio last week he was impressed by a “change of emphasis” in Washington, where Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said “there are no options off the table” to handle Iran.

Barak has also said he still saw room for punitive, economic steps against Tehran. (Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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