German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to order a unilateral Israeli attack against Iranian nuclear facilities at the present time, according to a senior Israeli official. Merkel told Netanyahu during a telephone conversation 10 days ago that she thinks Netanyahu should give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to work before any such attack is made.
Merkel initiated the call in the wake of the wave of reports in the Israeli media two weeks ago about the possibility that Israel would attack Iranian nuclear facilities within weeks, even before the U.S. election in early November, said the senior official.
Such a telephone call between the two is relatively exceptional. In the two months preceding the call there was an almost complete disconnect between Netanyahu and Merkel, and between their two offices, as a result of the harsh conflict between the two over settlements and the Palestinian issue. Merkel decided to hold the conversation in an attempt to give Netanyahu a clear message as to her opposition to an Israeli military operation.
Merkel expressed her worries about the consequences of such an attack, not just on stability in the Middle East but also for the European Union. She noted the harsh sanctions against Iran have made it very difficult for the Iranian government, and said the sanctions should be strengthened and given more time to work.
German officials and Netanyahu's bureau declined to comment or even confirm that the telephone conversation took place.
Merkel's harsh message to Netanyahu also represented to a certain extent the views of the British and French leaders, as well as other leaders in the EU. The Germans, British and French have been cooperating intensively with Israel on intelligence matters concerning Iranian nuclear operations, and the Europeans believe there is still time to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.
UN agency: Iran increasing nuclear capacity
U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich. ) said on Tuesday during the Republican convention in Tapa, Florida that he believes the Israeli government is likely to wait until after the U.S. election to take military action against Iran.
Rogers said he'd been left with "no doubt in my mind" that the U.S. election cycle was part of the Israelis' calculations after a recent trip where he met with Netanyahu and other officials, "because I think they believe that maybe after the election they could talk the United States into cooperating."
Iran has doubled the number of uranium enrichment machines it has in an underground bunker, a UN report said yesterday, showing Tehran continued to defy Western pressure to stop its atomic work and the threat of an Israeli attack.
In the weeks and months when Israeli politicians increased their talk of air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites, the Islamic Republic was rapidly increasing the enrichment capacity of its Fordo site, buried deep underground to withstand any such hit.
The UN International Atomic Energy Agency said in its quarterly report on Iran that the number of centrifuges at Fordo, near the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom, about 130 km from Tehran, had more than doubled to 2,140 from 1,064 in May. The new machines were not yet operating, it said.
Iran's supreme leader repeated this week that Iran's nuclear program was entirely peaceful. "Our motto is nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a developing nations summit in Tehran.
But the expansion in enrichment infrastructure and the increasing in stockpiles of potent nuclear material revealed in the report will do nothing to allay fears or reduce the diplomatic and sanctions pressure on Iran.
The report showed that Iran had produced nearly 190 kg of higher-grade enriched uranium since 2010, up from 145 kg in May. Iran says it needs this material - which is much purer than fuel needed for electricity generation - for a medical research reactor, but it also takes it significantly closer to making potential bomb material.
The IAEA also expressed concerns about Parchin, a military site south of the capital that it wants to inspect for evidence of past nuclear weapons development. "Significant ground scraping and landscaping have been undertaken over an extensive area and around the location," it said.
Five buildings had been demolished and power lines, fences and paved roads removed, the report said, "extensive activities" that would hamper its investigation if granted access.
"The activities observed ... further strengthen the agency's assessment that it is necessary to have access to the location at Parchin without further delay", the IAEA said.
Iran says Parchin is a conventional military facility and has dismissed the allegations about it as "ridiculous". Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, meeting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Tehran yesterday, was quoted by Iranian state TV as saying: "The West has put sanctions on Iran for years, however the Iranian nation continues to resist and make progress."
A Western diplomat said the doubling of enrichment capacity at Fordo was a "worrying trend" showing that Tehran continued to expand its program.
Netanyahu to address UN General Assembly
Just a few hours before the release of the IAEA report, Netanyahu announced his intention to relate to the threat of Iran's nuclear program in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York next month. A statement from the Prime Minister's Office yesterday said Netanyahu will arrive in New York on September 27 for a three-day visit and deliver his speech that same day, during a special gathering in which various state leaders will also speak.
Thus far, a meeting between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, who will also take part in the General Assembly event, has not been scheduled, but officials believe such a meeting will be set in the coming weeks.
Yesterday, Netanyahu condemned a speech by Khamenei, who launched a venomous attack against Israel in a speech inaugurating the Non-Aligned Movement conference yesterday.
"120 countries heard blood libel against Israel in Tehran today, and kept quiet," Netanyahu said. "This silence must stop and for this reason I will go to the UN to tell the truth about the terror regime of Iran, which poses the greatest threat to world peace."
In his speech, Khamenei denounced what he said was Israel's brutal suppression of Palestinian rights. "Even now, after 65 years the same kind of crimes marks the treatment of Palestinians remaining in the occupied territories by the ferocious Zionist wolves," Khamenei was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying, adding that Israel commits "new crimes one after the other and creates new crises for the region."
The Iranian supreme leader added that the "Zionist regime, which has carried out assassinations and caused conflicts and crimes for decades by waging disastrous wars, killing people, occupying Arab territories and organizing state terror in the region and in the world, labels the Palestinian people as 'terrorists,' the people who have stood up to fight for their rights."
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