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Israeli officials dismiss minister’s threat against Iran

By Xinhua,

Jerusalem : Israeli officials on Sunday slashed out at Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz over his threat of military action against Iran, stressing that the hawkish remarks do not represent Israel’s policy.

Commenting on Mofaz’s statement last week that Israel will attack Iran if Tehran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, a senior defense official on Sunday told local daily Ha’aretz that it “did not reflect policy”, adding that such remarks also “risked making it even harder for Israel to persuade more countries to step up their sanctions against Iran.”

“We need to stop Iran, but not to appear that we are leading the world efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear efforts,” another defense official said of the statement, which he regards as “harmful” to Israel.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev also indicated that Mofaz’s remarks do not necessarily reflect the thinking of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who made clear during his visit to Washington last week that he thought the diplomatic efforts against Iran are still needed to be allowed to run their course.

“All options must remain on the table,” Regev said. “At this time we believe that what are needed are tangible steps by the international community, steps that will put pressure on the regime in Tehran.”

Meanwhile, some other officials accused Mofaz, a senior member in Olmert’s Kadima party, of using the security issue to gain advantage in a possible campaign to replace Olmert who is currently embroiled in a fraud scandal that might force him to leave office.

“Turning one of the most strategic security issues into a political game, using it for the internal purposes of a would-be campaign in Kadima, is something that must not be done,” Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio.

Mofaz’s hard-line statement also triggered a surge of international criticism and prompted Iran to file a complaint with the United Nations.

“With unilateral military actions, countries are undermining international agreements, and we are at a historic turning point,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel.

“Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and, thus, requires a resolute and clear response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council,” Iranian ambassador to the UN Mohammed Khazaee said in a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Following Mofaz’s statement, the White House also reiterated that the United States was committed to solving the Iranian nuclear threat through diplomatic multilateral means.