Strike can turn West Asia into “ball of fire,” he says
DUBAI: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed el-Baradei warned on Saturday that any military strike on Iran could turn West Asia to a “ball of fire” and lead Iran to a more-aggressive stance on its controversial nuclear programme.
The comments by Mr. El-Baradei came a day after U.S. officials said they believed recent Israeli military exercises may have been meant to show Israel’s ability to hit Iran’s nuclear sites. “In my opinion, a military strike will be the worst... it will turn the Middle East [West Asia] to a ball of fire,” said Mr. El-Baradei on Al-Arabiya television. It also could prompt Iran to press even harder to seek a nuclear programme, and force him to resign, he added.
Threat to peace: Iran
Iran on Saturday also criticised the Israeli exercises. The official IRNA news agency quoted a government spokesman as saying the exercises demonstrate Israel “jeopardises global peace and security.” Israel’s military refused to confirm or deny that the manoeuvres were practice for a strike in Iran, saying only that it regularly trains for various missions to counter threats to the country. But the exercise, held in the first week of June, may have been meant as a show of force as well as a practice on skills needed to execute a long-range strike mission. The New York Times quoted officials on Friday as saying that more than 100 Israeli F-16s and F-15s staged the manoeuvre, flying more than 900 miles, roughly the distance from Israel to Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, and that the exercise included refuelling tankers and helicopters capable of rescuing downed pilots.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he prefers that Iran’s nuclear ambitions be halted by diplomatic means, but has pointedly declined to rule out military action. The U.S. also said it was seeking a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the threat the West sees from Iran’s nuclear programme, although U.S. officials also have refused to take the threat of military action off the table.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused to comment on the Israeli manoeuvres in an interview with National Public Radio aired on Saturday but said: “We are committed to a diplomatic course.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister warned on Friday against the use of force on Iran, saying there is no proof it is trying to build nuclear weapons with the a programme, which Tehran says is for generating power.
One Israeli legislator on Saturday urged caution, saying that the world should first do more to toughen and broaden the sanctions against Iran to persuade its leaders to halt the nuclear programme.
Reaction to the Israeli exercises rippled across the Gulf. In Dubai, Khaleej Times warned on Saturday that an attack on Iran by Israel or the U.S. would have “disastrous consequences for the region.” — AP