Text size

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday decried North Korea's nuclear testing as an example of the great dangers posed by the spread of nuclear weapons to non-democratic and fundamentalist regimes.

"The North Korean nuclear test gave us a reminder of the great danger to world stability and the danger of the spread of nuclear arms to non-democratic and fundamentalist states," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a gathering of activists from his Kadima Party at his Jerusalem residence, a senior party official said.

Israel is concerned that North Korea will transfer materials and technology for the development of nuclear weapons to Iran, a senior Israeli official said Monday following a nuclear test carried out by North Korea.

A day after North Korea said it conducted a nuclear weapons test, Iran's senior leadership said Tuesday their country would not retreat from its controversial nuclear program.

"Our policy is clear: Progress, offering transparent logic and insisting on the rights of the nation without retreat," supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, according to state-run television.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad affirmed that Iran would continue its nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.

"The Iranian nation will continue its path of dignity based on resistance, wisdom and without fear," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

Iran stood apart Tuesday from the chorus of global criticism condemning North Korea's nuclear test, instead blaming Washington for the test.

Khamenei said Iran would continue to pursue its program and not bow to international demands that it suspend uranium enrichment. The supreme leader said because Iran previously had voluntarily suspended enrichment, it would not consider doing so again.

"If we had not experienced that path perhaps we would have criticized ourselves today. But now, we will pursue with a strong heart," Khamenei said

Olmert will hold a special meeting on dealing with the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program this week. The meeting was planned several weeks ago, but will now take place in light of the North Korean nuclear test and its implications on the Middle East.

Tehran was reserved in its reaction to the North Korean test, and did not condemn Pyongyang. "Any step that threatens global peace and security is not acceptable to Iran," a senior official said.

Iran's state radio was more blatant and blamed Washington for the North Korean test.

"The U.S. not only failed to remove the sanctions it imposed on North Korea, but even stepped up diplomatic pressure against it. In the end, such pressure resulted in North Korea holding a nuclear test. The nuclear test of North Korea is a response to American threats and humiliations."

European and other intelligence sources claim that North Korean scientists offer assistance to Iran in the development of its nuclear program.

North Korea helped Iran develop its Shehab-class of surface-to-surface missiles.

China, Russia oppose military action North KoreaNorth Korea must face "some punitive actions" for testing a nuclear device, China's United Nations ambassador said Tuesday, suggesting that Beijing may be willing to impose some form of Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang.

China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters that the council must give a "firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response" to North Korea.

"I think there has to be some punitive actions but also I think these actions have to be appropriate," he said.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that North Korea had disregarded the international community and that China was opposed to its behavior.

The spokesman said, however, that taking military action against North Korea was "unreasonable," adding that China preferred to try to stop its nuclear powers through "positive measures."

Earlier Tuesday, Russia's Defense Minister called North Korea's nuclear testing "a colossal blow" to the non-proliferation regime, but warned that a United Nations resolution on the matter must not include use of violence.

The United States on Monday proposed stringent UN sanctions against North Korea, including a trade ban on military and luxury items, the power to inspect all cargo entering or leaving the country, and freezing assets connected with its weapons programs.

Both Russia and China are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and thus have the power of veto within the council. Chinese cooperation would be considered crucial to any efficient imposition of sanctions on North Korea. China supplies 70 percent of North Korea's economic and humanitarian aid and is largely involved in North Korea's foreign trade.

Israeli worried N. Korea will pass nuclear know-how to IranNorth Korea had issued a warning last week that it would not hesitate to transfer "technology, materials and nuclear arms" to other countries, a senior Israeli official said Monday.

North Korea has close defense ties with Iran and Syria and has been a major source for the supply of surface-to-surface missiles and ballistic missile knowhow to both countries.

The official also warned that the North Korean nuclear test is likely to result in Tehran expediting its nuclear development program, because of the assumption that a state with nuclear arms is "immune" to a strike against its nuclear installations.

"Now that North Korea has proven nuclear capabilities, it is liable to collaborate with Iran and accelerate the Iranian nuclear program," Israel's ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon said.

An Iranian diplomat involved in talks with the European Union on his country's nuclear ambitions said Monday that the North Korean test is likely to make the West think twice about its attitude toward the Iranian nuclear program.

The diplomat also voiced a veiled threat that Tehran would one day go the way of Pyongyang.

The North Korean test comes at a time when the United States is making efforts to rally international support for sanctions against Iran because of its disregard for a UN Security Council demand that Tehran freeze its uranium enrichment program.

However, senior European and American diplomatic sources opposed any comparison between the deadlock on Iran's nuclear program and North Korea, saying that these were different problems requiring different solutions.

The Israel Atomic Energy Committee confirmed Monday that North Korea had carried out a nuclear test, on the basis of seismologic data. According to the press release, the subterranean explosion was relatively small, with an estimated yield of 0.5 and 1.0 kiloton.

Israel joined the chorus of nations throughout the world Monday who condemned the North Korean nuclear test and also called for a continuation of the "moratorium on nuclear tests." The international community must "firmly implement UNSC resolutions adopted to deal with weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation threat," a statement read.