Text size

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the world must "confront Iran's malevolence" and stop the Muslim country from developing nuclear weapons.

Olmert was speaking to the United Jewish Communities General Assembly (GA), an annual conference of thousands of participants from North America, held in Jerusalem this year. The GA, generally held in the United States and Canada, was last convened in Israel five years ago.

"Iran has not terminated its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran has not ceased its funding and training of terrorists in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and around the world," the prime minister told the cheering crowd.

"Iran has not stopped its pursuit of regional hegemony and creating chaos in this tormented region." he continued. "We must unite our forces as part of the international community, led by the United States of America. We must confront Iran's malevolent diligence and thwart it with great force."

"Iran cannot become nuclear. Israel cannot afford it...The free world must not accept it," he said. "We must all do whatever we can to prevent it."

"It must become more costly for Iran to pursue nuclear weapons than to give them up," the prime minister proclaimed.

Jerusalem considers Iran a strategic threat because of its nuclear program, its development of long-range missiles and repeated threats to destroy Israel.

Olmert did not give specific warnings about possible Israeli actions against Iran.

He did, however, mention that this may be the last time he addresses the GA as Israel's prime minister, as he has announced that he will not be taking part in the upcoming elections, to be held Feb. 10.

Addressing Israel's efforts to achieve peace with its Arab neighbors, Olmert said that "Israel under my leadership maintains its commitment to making progress on two political processes - serious and meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians and with Syria, which started and which continue and which I believe are essential for the future well-being and security of the state of Israel."

Also scheduled to address the four-day conference are Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer are slated to speak as well.

"As long as I am prime minister, I will spare no effort to make the necessary progress to advance the peace process," Olmert exclaimed.