Barak to Rice: All Options Are on the Table Regarding Iran Nukes

Defense Min. says Iran working toward building nukes while simultaneously deceiving the world.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Israel would not rule out any course of action to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.

"Israel is convinced Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb," Barak told Rice," adding that Jerusalem "is not taking any option off the table, and we don't recommend that others take any option off the table."

Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of its civil nuclear program. Iran denies that, saying its atomic program is aimed at peaceful purposes.

Barak's comments came amid speculation about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel carried out an air strike last year on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor.

During their talks, Barak referred to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's declaration that he would be prepared to engage in dialogue with Iran.

Rice also visited the West Bank of Ramallah on later on Friday, where she met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. During their meeting she stressed that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations launched a year ago are vibrant, vital and will eventually lead to a Palestinian state.

Rice has acknowledged that a year-end target for an agreement was no longer realistic, but insisted the talks have not failed.

"The distance to that peace has been narrowed, although the peace has not yet been achieved," Rice said.

"We knew ... that if that agreement was not reached by the end of the year, that there would be those who would say that the Annapolis process, the negotiations, had failed."

"In fact, it is quite the opposite. The Annapolis process has laid the foundations for the eventual establishment of the state of Palestine," she said. "The Annapolis process ... is vital, it is vibrant, and it is continuing, and I am quite certain that carried to its conclusion, it will produce a state of Palestine."

Livni says disagrees with Obama over dialogue with Iran Foreign Minister and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said on Thursday that Obama's stated readiness to talk to Iran could be seen in the Middle East as a sign of weakness in efforts to persuade Tehran to curb its nuclear program.

"We live in a neighborhood in which sometimes dialogue - in a situation where you have brought sanctions, and you then shift to dialogue - is liable to be interpreted as weakness," Livni said when asked on Israel Radio about policy change toward Tehran in an Obama administration.

Her remarks sounded the first note of dissonance with Obama by a senior member of the Israeli government since the Democrat's sweeping victory over Republican candidate John McCain in the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday.

Asked if she supported any U.S. dialogue with Iran, Livni replied: "The answer is no."

Later in the day, Livni described Obama's election as a source of inspiration to millions around the world as she stood next to visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a joint press conference in the home of the American ambassador to Israel.

"I would of course like to congratulate President-elect Barack Obama on his historic victory, a man who has impressed Israelis during his visits here and throughout the campaign by what he represents," she said. "I would like to also express our appreciation to Senator John McCain for his leadership and long-standing friendship."

Then she returned to the subject of Iran.

"We need to fight extremism, Livni said. We need to continue the pressure on Iran and I believe that the idea of continuing the pressure comes with more intense and effective sanctions on the Iranians."

Livni, leading the centrist Kadima party in the February 10 parliamentary election, also said "the bottom line" was that the United States, under Obama, "is also not willing to accept a nuclear Iran."

Obama has said he would harden sanctions on Iran but has also held out the possibility of direct talks with U.S. adversaries to resolve problems, including the dispute over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The West believes Iran's nuclear enrichment program is aimed at building atomic weapons, an allegation the Islamic Republic denies.

Israel, believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, has repeatedly said Iran's nuclear program is a threat to its existence and that it was keeping all options on the table to stop it.