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Iran Threatens Israel with Attack

By Reuters, &

Iran Tuesday threatened to attack Israel in response to any "evil" act by the United States and said it had enriched uranium to a level close to the maximum compatible with civilian use in power stations.

The defiant statements were issued shortly before world powers met in Paris to plan their next moves after Tehran rejected a UN call to halt uranium enrichment. Senior officials from the UN Security Council's permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – plus Germany discussed how to curb an Iranian program that Western nations say conceals a drive for atomic warheads.

"We have announced that wherever America does something evil, the first place that we target will be Israel," Revolutionary Guards Rear Admiral Mohammad-Ebrahim Dehqani was quoted as saying by Iran's student news agency ISNA.

The United States says it wants Iran's nuclear standoff with the West solved diplomatically but has refused to rule out military action.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map." Iran's deputy oil minister said there was "some possibility" of a US attack on his country over its nuclear program. "I am worried. Everybody is worried," Mohammad Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian said in New Delhi after talks on a proposed $7-billion pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan.

Concerns that Iran's dispute with the West could lead to disruption of its oil output pushed oil prices above $74 a barrel, close to the record of $75.35 touched last month.

Diplomats associated with the United Nation's nuclear watchdog say Iran has created a new reality in its nuclear dispute with much of the world by achieving uranium enrichment, while Western powers pursue a strategy that has yet to pay off.

After the International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week that Iran had not met UN demands, U.S., British and French envoys are now seeking a Security Council resolution that would legally oblige Tehran to halt all enrichment activity.

But a proud Iran is unlikely to buckle after overcoming technical barriers to producing low-enriched uranium as fuel for nuclear power plants, the diplomats in Vienna say.

The U.S.-led push for UN action has prompted Iran to halt snap checks by the IAEA on suspected atomic sites, increasing uncertainty about Tehran's activities.

The diplomats also argue that the Western strategy ignores Iranian security fears that may be partly motivating what the West suspects is a covert quest for atomic bombs.

"The fixation of the West, especially Washington, on 'denying' Iran enrichment capability is a stupid policy and a failure proven by the fact that Iran has now achieved it," said a senior Vienna diplomat familiar with the IAEA's Iran dossier.

"There is little doubt Iran aspires eventually to be able to enrich uranium to the high level needed for a bomb. But the only way to deter that is security and trade guarantees and only the Americans can offer that, via direct talks."

A top Iranian nuclear official also said Tuesday that Iran has discovered new deposits of uranium and was continuing its nuclear enrichment program despite international protests, The deputy chief for nuclear research and technology, Mohammad Ghannadi, said Iran had found at least three new uranium deposits in central Iran and was working toward mining them.

"We have got good news: the discovery of new uranium mines in central Iran," Ghannadi told a conference Tuesday. "One is in Khoshoomi region in central Iran. Studies have already been made and samples have already been taken there. The other two are in Charchooleh and Narigan in central Iran."

Iran refuses to back down from what it calls its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Driving home that message, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said his country had now succeeded in purifying uranium to 4.8 percent, at the top end of the 3 to 5 per cent range for fuel used in nuclear power plants. "Enrichment above 5 percent is not on Iran's agenda," Aghazadeh told the students' ISNA news agency.

Iran has previously said it had enriched to more than 4 percent, far below the 80 percent level needed for bomb-making.

It has used a test cascade of 164 centrifuges to enrich uranium so far and is building two similar cascades. It says it will start installing 3,000 centrifuges later this year – which could yield enough material for one bomb within a year.

The United States and Israel have vowed to deny Iran nuclear weapons. Washington has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails and Tehran has sworn to retaliate if attacked.

Israel: Nuclear Iran Represents Existential Threat


The Israeli chief of staff said Tuesday that Iran's nuclear program represented an existential threat to the Jewish state which required a concerted international response.

In a series of interviews on the eve of Israeli Independence Day, General Dan Halutz acknowledged growing fears about the intentions of the regime in Iran whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and described the Holocaust as a myth.

"If Iran comes into possession of atomic weapons, that would represent an existential threat to Israel with the current regime," Halutz said on Israeli radio. "The regime in Tehran is pulling hard at the leash but I hope that it will not take the risk of actually breaking it."

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, Israel has come to view Tehran as its number one enemy. Prime minister designate Ehud Olmert compared Ahmadinejad to Nazi leader Adolph Hitler in a weekend interview, describing him as "the worst kind of psychopath".

Olmert however has said that international diplomacy is the best way to resolve the crisis rather than military action, despite calls by some Israeli politicians for a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities in an echo of the 1981 bombing of Iraq's French-built Osirak nuclear plant.

"First of all let the international community find what it wants to find, I think that is appropriate," Halutz told Yedioth Ahronoth. "We are part of the international community; we are not the sheriff of the region here. We should not get carried away, and speed ourselves up and carry out acts that are not in the right place, not the right time, before others try and do what has to be done."

Halutz rejected the idea that there was a danger that the point of no return would soon be passed and that Israel should set itself a deadline to take matters into its own hands.

"This obligation is not on our shoulders at this time, because the world understands that this is its task and I suggest we should not jump the gun," Halutz told Yedioth.

Israel Celebrates 58 Years


Israel is celebrating its 58th year of independence Wednesday. The celebration started Tuesday evening with the conclusion of Memorial Day at sundown. Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut) was launched with a torch-lighting ceremony at the Mount Herzl plaza in Jerusalem.

Speaking at the ceremony, Shimon Peres said: "I call on those near and far, on the Palestinians and the rulers of Arab countries that have not yet signed peace treaties with us, lay down your weapons.

"I call on all Muslim nations to let go the hostility," he said. "There are still existential dangers…there are those who want to exterminate us. In its 58th year, despite crises and difficulties, the country is still a wonder in the eyes of nations when it comes to its abilities, achievements, and unique qualities," Peres said.

"We, the citizens of Israel, should be looking back with immense satisfaction at what we have done. (We should) expect the future with hope, we shouldn't stop dreaming and we shouldn't stop creating. We have who to be proud (of) and what to be proud of, "he said.

Author A.B. Yehoshua Vexes US Jews


During a forum on the future of the Jewish people, renowned Israeli author A. B. Yehoshua emphasized his Israeli identity as superior in importance to his Judaism, spurring discomfort and awkwardness among his audience.

"My identity is Israeli," Yehoshua told participants in a Washington symposium marking a century since the establishment of the American Jewish Committee. The author added the Jewish religion does not play a role for him and said the territory and language is what creates his identity as an Israeli.

During the forum held in the U.S. Library of Congress building, the Israeli author purported that the past 100 years were a failure in terms of the development of the Jewish people. He argued that one's identity is crafted by his environment and the land he lives in. A Jewish Israeli is not the same thing as a Jewish Frenchman; every Jew has an identity linked to the territory he lives in, Yehoshua said. Whoever sits in Israel and daily makes dozens of fateful and relevant decisions for the continued existence of the Jews, he is the one ensuring continuity, he added.

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, rejected Yehoshua's statements. Yehoshua is taking the concept "Jewish" and narrowing it down to mean just Israeli, Wieseltier said. The concept of Judaism existed long before Israel was established. "There is Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish literature, texts that have been with us form 3,000 years," he argued. "Why do you insist on narrowing it down to Israeliness?"

The audience in the auditorium was astonished by Yehoshua's statements, and a few of the panelists and guests referred to the tireless contributions and efforts of American Jews towards the State of Israel in rejecting Yehoshua's statements.

The panel moderator, news anchor Ted Koppel, was also ruffled by the comments and told Yehoshua that the great contributions of Diaspora Jews to the continuity of the Jews as a people could not be disregarded. "There is something very very special, universal and easily identifiable among all Jews; it is beyond territory, it is something we all have in common," Koppel said.

Executive Director of the AJC David Harris described Yehoshua as very impassioned, but subscribing to a classical Zionist viewpoint which considers the Diaspora as marginal and irrelevant to the future of the Jewish people.

Yehoshua was not granted much support by the audience, Harris said. On the contrary, he pointed out; many in the audience were insulted by his words, which cancel out their own role in helping to shape Judaism's future.

New Town for Rich US Immigrants


In less than 18 months the cornerstone will be laid to mark the beginning of construction of a new community in the Negev, called Carmit, designated for wealthy, young American immigrants who want to make Aliyah and live in style.

The planned new community will include 2,650 private homes for about 11,500 new residents, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday. The target residents are mainly lawyers, engineers, doctors and CPAs.

Shimon Peres said on Monday that he is happy that his first task as minister in charge of development of the Negev and Galilee is to push forward the construction of the new community.

Efrat Duvdevani, director of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee said that the new residents of Carmit would get aid in employment and more affordable rates for land appropriated for construction.

Ronny Palmer, who heads an organization that promotes building communities in the Negev, said that the first wave of immigrants would arrive in Israel in a year and half and construction work at the new community should begin early next year.

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