Thursday, November 16, 2006

Iran complains to U.N. of Israeli threats to bomb it

Iran complains to U.N. of Israeli threats to bomb it
By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran, whose president has vowed to wipe Israel off the map, complained to the United Nations on Wednesday that the Jewish state was repeatedly threatening to bomb it.

The threats were "matters of extreme gravity" and the U.N. Security Council should condemn them and demand that Israel "cease and desist immediately from the threat of the use of force against members of the United Nations," Iranian U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif said.

His comments, which came in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan dated November 10 and circulated at the United Nations on Wednesday, prompted a quick rejoinder from John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

"I would say this is perhaps an example of the Iranians trying to learn 'chutzpah,'" Bolton told reporters, using a Yiddish word for unmitigated gall or outrageously arrogant behavior.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, has been aggressively pursuing a nuclear program that it says is meant only to produce electric power.

But Western powers and Israel, which is widely believed to be a nuclear power, insist the activities are a cover for making nuclear bombs.

Iran's activities have prompted speculation that Israel might launch pre-emptive strikes to destroy its nuclear facilities, as it did in Iraq in 1981 when it bombed a reactor at Osiraq.

The speculation increased after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year threatened to "wipe Israel off the map," a statement Iranian officials have argued was not a threat.

Israel has fueled the speculation with a series of "unlawful and dangerous threats," Zarif said.

His letter cited several examples. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said last Friday that a pre-emptive strike on Iran was possible as "a last resort," Zarif's letter said. "But even the last resort is sometimes the only resort," he quoted Sneh as saying.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on October 19 that Iran would have "a price to pay" for continuing its nuclear programs and Iranians "have to be afraid" of what Israel might do, according to Zarif's letter.

Similarly, Zarif said that Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz said on January 21, "We are preparing for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program."