Lieberman: Israel has no plans to attack Iran
FM visits Moscow; Russia says it will insist Iran use nuclear program for civilian purposes only.
Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said on Wednesday his government has no plans to attack Iran.
"Israel is not planning to bomb Iran," Lieberman told reporters in Moscow. The foreign minister is currently in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders.
The new Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has placed the Iranian nuclear program at the top of his agenda.
Netanyahu views the prospect of Iran attaining a nuclear military capability as an existential threat to Israel, thus raising fears worldwide that Jerusalem will resort to military action to halt or delay the Islamic regime's plans.
"We do not have a need" to carry out attacks on Iran, he said. "Israel is a strong country and we can defend ourselves."
Lieberman added that Iran is the main factor behind instability in the Middle East, adding: "This is not an Israeli problem."
"But the world should understand that the Iran's entrance into the nuclear club would prompt a whole arms race, a crazy race of unconventional weaponry across the Mideast that is a threat to the entire world order, a challenge to the whole international community," he said. "So we do not want a global problem to be solved with our hands."
The comments appeared to be a slight softening from recent statements made by Netanyahu's government that have suggested Israel might be forced to take military action against Iran.
On Tuesday, Moscow said it will demand that Iran commit to utilizing its nuclear program for civilian purposes only.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Lieberman on Tuesday that his government will insist that Tehran utilize its nuclear program for peaceful purposes.
"We have confirmed the need to assure the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program," Lavrov said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
Lieberman expressed concerns about Russian arms supplies to Iran, and said that he had been assured such sales would only take place if it did not affect the "regional balance of power."
Lavrov said the new U.S. administration's approach to Iran has increased chances of resolving the standoff over its nuclear program, but gave no indication of whether Moscow would increase pressure on Tehran.
Speaking after meeting with Lieberman, he also ceded no ground publicly over Russia's engagement with the violent group Hamas, which has angered Israel.
Lieberman also met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Tuesday in the Russian capital.
During Lieberman's meeting with Lavrov earlier, the Russian foreign minister said his government would demand an explicit Iranian commitment that its nuclear program be geared for civilian purposes only.
Lieberman's talks focused on the Iranian nuclear program given the fact that Russia plays a key role as the primary supplier of nuclear equipment. In addition, it is currently opposed to levying additional sanctions against Tehran.
The foreign minister said that if dialogue with the Tehran regime fails, then the international community will have to employ more aggressive means to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israel wants Russia to use its close relationship with Iran to pressure Tehran to stop nuclear activities it believes are aimed at developing weapons.
Lavrov said he told Lieberman about steps Russia is taking along with other UN Security Council members and Germany, but he said nothing about any efforts by Moscow itself.
He said Russia and the other nations "expect a constructive answer" from Tehran on proposals aimed toward reviving negotiations.
"We really have a very good chance now, in part due to the position of the new U.S. administration," Lavrov said.