German FM to Netanyahu: Israeli strike on Iran nuclear sites could fracture international coalition
Guido Westerwelle expresses Germany's opposition to unilateral military action, adding Berlin is committed to keeping up sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Iran.
Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle emphasized on Sunday during his meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Germany is opposed to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
According to a high-ranking German official, Westerwelle told Netanyahu that an Israeli military operation at this time could dissolve the international coalition against Iran.
Westerwelle was in effect reiterating the message of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her telephone conversation with Netanyahu of around two weeks ago. He said Germany did not think that one-sided military action was the best option, adding, "We will keep up sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Iran. Westill see room for diplomacy."
Netanyahu repeated his conviction that the international community must set out before Iran "red lines" with regard to its nuclear program, stressing that the enrichment of uranium past 20 percent should constitute such a red line, proof that Iran has decided to develop nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu said that the moment Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, makes the decision to manufacture the country's first nuclear bomb, the Iranians will need only six weeks to enrich a sufficient quantity of uranium to 90 percent to use it to make a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu said that because International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors visit Iran's uranium enrichment facilities in Qom and Natanz only once every two months they could end up discovering only too late that Iran had progressed to 90-percent enrichment. Netanyahu also said that the inspectors' inspections are insufficiently thorough.
Westerwelle met earlier Sunday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. One of their main topics of discussion, which was also raised in the meeting with Netanyahu, was German arms sales to Arab states. Israel is particularly concerned about a deal to sell two German submarines to the Egyptian navy.
"Germany will acknowledge Israel's security interests when making a decision regarding a submarine deal with Egypt," Westerwelle told reporters at a pressbriefing in Jerusalem after his meeting with Barak.
Before his meeting with the German foreign minister Barak tried to downplay the differences between the two nations concerning arms sales. "The military cooperation between the two governments is excellent and is reflected, among other things, by the contract concerning the sale of a sixth submarine [to Israel]," Barak he noted, adding, "Our ties with Germany stretch back many years and are based on a basic belief in democracy, values and remembrance, and we deeply appreciate this friendship."
In his address at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning, Netanyahu praised Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his decision to sever his country's diplomatic relations with Iran, calling it "a daring and moral step" that sent "a principled and important message to the entire world, that the dark regime cannot have nuclear weapons. I call on the entire international community, or at least on its responsible members, to follow in Canada's determined path and set Iran moral and practical red lines, lines that will stop its race to achieve nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said