Barak tells Gates: All Iran options still on table
Danny Ayalon's comments come after Russia president said Peres told him Israel wouldn't attack Iran.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates on Monday that Israel would not take any option regarding Iran off the table, and urged Washington to set a time limit on its diplomatic efforts.
Israel means what it says when it comes to Iran's contentious nuclear program, Barak said during a meeting with Gates in Washington.
Earlier in his visit on Monday, Barak met with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones and the U.S. supervisor on Iran, Dennis Ross.
During that meeting, Barak said that Israel was interested in the diplomatic process being consolidated by U.S. President Barack Obama, whereby an agreement with the Palestinians would ensure Israel's interests of security and other crucial matters.
Israel's deputy foreign minister earlier Monday made similar comments regarding Iran, saying Israel has not given up the option of a military response to Tehran's nuclear program. Danny Ayalon's remarks came after Russia's president said his Israeli counterpart had assured him the country would not attack Iran.
Ayalon was asked by Reuters if the comment by President Shimon Peres, as reported on Sunday by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, was a guarantee there would be no Israeli strike on Iran.
"It is certainly not a guarantee," Ayalon replied. "I don't think that, with all due respect, the Russian president is authorized to speak for Israel and certainly we have not taken any option off the table."
In an interview with CNN released on Sunday, Medvedev described an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites as "the worst thing that can be imagined." He said Peres made the comment at a meeting in the Russian resort of Sochi in August.
"When he visited me in Sochi, Israeli President Peres said something important for us all: 'Israel does not plan to launch any strikes on Iran. We are a peaceful country and we will not do this'," Medvedev quoted Peres as saying in the interview, which was recorded on Tuesday, according to a Kremlin transcript.
Medvedev's comments came amid speculation that Israel was considering a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities in the belief the Islamic Republic is using them to develop atomic weapons.
The Israel Defense Forces chief staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, also said on Monday that he would not rule out a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, saying all options were open in self-defence.
"Israel has the right to defend itself and all options are on the table," Askenazi said during a rare interview on Army Radio when asked if Israel had the capacity to attack if it felt threatened by Tehran.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in comments published Monday that concern about Iran remains a top priority and that Israel wants the diplomatic efforts being pursued by the Americans to be limited, well defined and followed by tough sanctions. He reiterated that he removes no option from the table, a reference to the possibility of a military assault on Iranian nuclear facilities, according to the paper.
The minister also said a central challenge for the United States now was how to handle the nuclear weapons of North Korea, the paper reported, because that would greatly influence Iran.
"North Korea is developing long-range missiles in the backyard of China and Russia and nothing happens to them," The New York Times quoted him as saying. "When the Iranian leadership asks themselves, 'Should we be worried or just go through the ritual of defying and cheating?' the answer depends on what happens to North Korea. A coherent move toward blocking nuclear proliferation should start with North Korea. It would have very positive ramifications for blocking Iran."