Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tony Blair rebukes Iran for threats against Israel

Guardian reports:

Tony Blair warned Iran last night in his starkest terms yet that the world would soon start demanding direct action against Tehran if "totally unacceptable" threats to wipe out Israel were repeated by its government.

At the end of the EU's one day summit in Hampton Court, Surrey, where Iran's stance was roundly condemned Mr Blair recalled that many countries had been urging restraint from the international community over Tehran's nuclear programme. But he said that instead of people "telling us you are not going to do anything about Iran, the question people are going to ask is 'what are you going to do about Iran?' because can you imagine a state with an attitude like that having nuclear weapons".

Earlier the 25 leaders of the European Union issued a joint statement rebuking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, over his comment that Israel should be wiped off the map. Several countries including Britain, France, Russia, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, called in Iranian diplomats to chastise them. The EU leaders said no country that claimed to be a responsible member of the international community should be urging the destruction of another state. But none endorsed a call by Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, for Iran to be thrown out of the UN.

Following Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks this week Mr Blair said: "I felt a real sense of revulsion at these remarks. Anyone in Europe, knowing our history, when we hear such statements made about Israel, it makes us feel very angry. It's just completely wrong." Singling out Tehran's attitude towards Israel, terrorism and nuclear weapons, Mr Blair said that "if they continue down this path people may be a real threat to world security".

Jacques Chirac, France's president, said: "I was profoundly shocked by the declaration of the Iranian president," and that by his "irresponsible remarks" he risked his country being made a pariah.

Britain France and Germany have struggled to persuade Iran to accept supervision by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, of its nuclear programme. In recent weeks British officials have also blamed bomb-making techniques imported from Iran for the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq...

In a related story:

Russia too condemns Iran's 'wiped off map' comment on Israel:

Russia condemned Iran for saying Israel should be "wiped off the map", warning Tehran yesterday that such comments added to pressure for Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking to Russian media during a trip to Jordan, said the remark by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was "unacceptable"."I have to admit that those who insist on transferring the Iranian nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council have received an additional argument to do so," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

"What I saw on television was unacceptable. We will bring it to the attention of the Iranian side," he said.

Russia, a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Security Council, has long warned against referring Iran's nuclear issue to the Council or using force against its ally in the Middle East. It has called for diplomatic ways to settle disagreements.

Iran's foreign minister and other top officials were in Moscow earlier this week to drum up Russian support, but Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel remarks appeared to have shaken Russia's so-far consistently pro-Iranian stance."We will invite the Iranian ambassador to the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation today and will ask him for an explanation," Lavrov said."I think this does not add to the efforts of those who are trying to normalise the situation around Iran," he said.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed Lavrov's comments and said the Iranian Ambassador in Moscow had been called to the ministry in connection with Ahmadinejad's comments.

The United States and the EU suspect Iran's nuclear fuel programme, which it hid from the IAEA for 18 years, is a front for developing weapons.Washington won a vote at the UN's 35-member International Atomic Energy Agency threatening Iran with referral to the Council -- but Russia abstained. No deadline was set.Russia, like Iran, has long maintained that Tehran's nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, and defended Tehran's right to develop non-military atomic projects. Moscow has helped Iran build a $1-billion nuclear reactor in southern Iran. The plant is due to be launched next year.