Medvedev Netanyahu - Amos Ben Gershom / GPO- February, 2010
Meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow, in February 2010. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Israel on Tuesday of using "dangerous rhetoric" that could lead to a war with Iran, amid rising tensions over the latter's nuclear program.

Speaking in Berlin after meeting his German counterpart Christian Wulff, Medvedev said a threatening atmosphere was being created by the Israelis, as media speculation abounded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were considering a military option against Iran.

"The threat of a military strike could lead to a major war," he warned, adding that it was now vital to calm the situation, "take a deep breath and open talks."

Moscow had repeatedly urged Tehran to prove to the world that its nuclear research was purely peaceful in its objectives. "Unfortunately there hasn't been any movement in this direction," said Medvedev, who was later to attend a ceremony to open an undersea gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Monday that a strike against Iran would be a grave mistake with unpredictable consequences: "This would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences," he said.

Defense Minister Barak played down speculation Tuesday that Israel intended to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, saying it had not decided to embark on any military operation.

"War is not a picnic. We want a picnic. We don't want a war," Barak told Israel Radio ahead of the release this week of an International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] report on Iran's nuclear activity.  "[Israel] had not yet decided to embark on any operation."

But he said Israel had to prepare for "uncomfortable situations" and ultimately bore responsibility for its own security. All options to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions should
remain open, he said.

The IAEA report is widely expected to strengthen suspicions that Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons despite its statements that its uranium enrichment programme is aimed at power generation.

"I estimate that it will be quite a harsh report ... it does not surprise Israel, we have been dealing with these issues for years," Barak said. "We are probably at the last opportunity for coordinated, international, lethal sanctions that will force Iran to stop."

The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] is set to issue a report this week on Iran's nuclear activity. Western nuclear experts have told Haaretz, in anticipation of the IAEA report, that Iran will be ready to build a nuclear bomb within a few months if it desires.

Other experts, who have seen intelligence used in the compilation of the latest report, have said that Tehran already has the know-how, the technological means and the materials needed to put an atom bomb together within short order.

These experts have concluded that nuclear weapons engineers from Russia, Pakistan and North Korea have been assisting Iranian scientists in their efforts to reach nuclear capability. Haaretz published similar information last week, reporting that experts have said that Iran could carry out underground nuclear tests quite soon if it wants to.

France this week also warned Israel against taking a military options, saying it was seeking to harden sanctions instead.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: ברק: הפסטיבל סביב איראן מופקר, בשום תרחיש לא יהיו אפילו 500 הרוגים