Israel Says Decision on Iran Attack “Far Off”

Posted January 18th, 2012 at 5:20 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says any decision to attack Iran's nuclear program is “very far off.”

Barak said Wednesday no decision has been made to take such action, as Israel prepares for a visit this week by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey.

Russia said Wednesday a military strike against Iran would be a “catastrophe” that would inflame tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites in the region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said all possible sanctions against Iran's nuclear program have been “exhausted.”

He said additional sanctions have “nothing to do” with nuclear non-proliferation and instead are aimed at hurting the Iranian economy and people.

The United States and its allies have been tightening sanctions on Iran to pressure it into stopping enriching uranium. They accuse of Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

European Union diplomats said Tuesday their member states are set to ban the import of Iranian oil from July 1, giving companies time to phase out existing contracts. The deal is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

But as Iran prepares to host a delegation of senior U.N. nuclear officials later this month, Lavrov says an EU embargo could hurt the chances of renewing negotiations with Iran about it's nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report last November saying it has evidence suggesting Iran has been researching the development and delivery of nuclear weapons. Iran says the report is based on fabrications, saying its nuclear program is only for peaceful use.

The EU bought about a fifth of Iranian oil last year, collectively rivaling China as the main buyer.

An EU embargo would deprive Iran of vital foreign currency income. Iran is the second largest oil producer in the OPEC cartel after Saudi Arabia.

Iranian representative to OPEC Mohammad Ali Khatibi said Tuesday a EU embargo on Iranian oil would be “economic suicide” for the 27-nation bloc, whose members are trying to overcome a debt crisis.

Iran has threatened to respond to an oil embargo by closing the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for the global oil trade. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Iran's threat “provocative and dangerous.”