Monday, December 10, 2007

“Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors."

Gates: Worry About Iranian Nukes, Not Israel

by Hana Levi Julian

.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates informed attendees at an international security conference Saturday that Israel's alleged nuclear capabilities are not a threat to the Middle East, but emphasized that nuclear energy in Iranian hands would be a threat to the world.

Gates urged the officials of the Persian Gulf nations at the conference in Manama, Bahrain to back sanctions by the United Nations Security Council which pressure Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program. The Islamic Republic decided against attending the meeting.

"Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents – Christians, Jews and Muslims alike," he said, calling Iranian policy a threat to the U.S. and "all countries within the range of the ballistic missiles Iran is developing."

Asked whether he believed Israel's alleged nuclear program jeopardized the region, Gates replied bluntly, "No, I do not." He denied the U.S. held Iran to a different standard than it did Israel on the issue of nuclear development.

"Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors. It has not shipped weapons into a place like Iraq to kill thousands of innocent civilians covertly," he said. "It has not threatened to destroy any of its neighbors. It is not trying to destabilize the government of Lebanon. So I think there are significant differences in terms of both the history and the behavior of the Iranian and Israeli governments. I understand there is a difference of view on that," he added.

Gates acknowledged that a U.S. intelligence report released last week saying that Iran had ceased nuclear weapons development activities in 2003 had "confused a lot of people around the world in terms of what we are trying to accomplish."

U.S. intelligence officials also said Monday when they released the report that if Iran continues its uranium enrichment activities it could still create a nuclear weapon within the next three years.

Both the U.S. and Israel are convinced that Iran is actively working to develop a nuclear weapon of mass destruction, despite President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claims the Islamic Republic is focusing its program on nuclear energy for peaceful domestic use only.

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