Saturday 3 December 2016

Britain warns Israel not to launch strike on Iran

Phoebe Greenwood in Tel Aviv

Published 20/02/2012 | 05:00

A strike against Iran would not be wise, William Hague told Israel yesterday.

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Britain's Foreign Secretary's warning came as Tom Donilon, President Obama's national security adviser, arrived in Tel Aviv for emergency talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister.

Mr Hague said the world faced the risk of conflict, or the prospect of a cold war, if Iran got a nuclear weapon and economic sanctions did not force Tehran to change course.

"They would either be attacked and there would be a war, or there would be a cold war in which Iran for the long term would be subject to these very intense economic sanctions," he said. "They would find that other nations in their region developed nuclear weapons."

Mr Hague said Israel had not shared its plans with Britain.

Israel is coming under ever-greater pressure from America and Britain to hold back from launching a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Many within the Israeli defence community say Tehran's arsenal could be disastrous for regional security.

A senior source in the Israeli government said Tel Aviv received Mr Hague's comments with "gravity". He said Israel would continue to communicate with the British government.

"There are regular talks taking place behind closed doors," the Israeli official said. "I think Mr Hague knows very well that he does not want us to share our plans with the UK because shared plans means shared responsibility and the British government doesn't want that."

American government officials, quoted by the Israeli newspaper 'Haaretz', say the Obama administration believes Israel is likely to launch a military attack on Iran in a matter of months.

Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, has predicted that Israel will launch a strike in April or June.

The Netanyahu government is yet to issue a response to Mr Panetta's prediction.

Premature

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would be "premature" to take military action against Iran.

Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, has also insisted that an Israeli strike is unlikely in the near future. He called instead for further "crippling and consequential" sanctions against Iran.

Israel has expressed some satisfaction with the impact of the economic sanctions, particularly after the Belgian banking telecommunications firm SWIFT complied with international demands to block the transference of funds from Iranian banks on Friday.

However, Israeli defence chiefs say the international community must go further. As one senior Israeli official said recently: "Any measure that doesn't stop Iran's nuclear programme is inadequate". Mr Netanyahu is expected to repeat that message to Mr Donilon before he leaves Israel today. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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