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A week after world leaders urged Israel to tone down its heated rhetoric on Iran, European leaders are again urging caution as Iran begins to react to the international community's stern words and threats, led by Israel.
The International Atomic Energy Agency last week released a report on Iran's nuclear program that said intelligence indicated that the intentions of the program may not be entirely peaceful. The leak of the report was followed by a flurry of threats and warnings from Israel – and a concerted effort from world leaders to dial down the conversation.
In a television interview with CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday, Israeli President Shimon Peres called Iran a "morally corrupt" and "spoiled" country, saying that what was needed was an attack on the country's "moral foundations," Haaretz reports, quoting the CNN interview (which is not available on-line). Iran is "the only country that threatens to destroy another country, openly," Mr. Peres said.
But the military option is not Israel's first option, he said, explaining that he would prefer to see stronger economic sanctions and political pressure before a military attack. He also reiterated Israel's stance that Iran is a global threat, not merely an Israeli threat.
In a commentary published today in The Times of London, opposition leader Tzipi Livni also called on the international community to do its part to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran, she wrote, "with its genocidal rhetoric and its growing military might, is not just a threat to the stability of our region. Its intentions run counter to the interests of the free world and its policies are an affront to the values of the free world."
Yesterday, European Union foreign ministers ruled out a military option for Iran. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that a strike on Iran would "drag the world into an 'uncontrollable spiral'," Agence France-Presse reports. The ministers opted to consider further sanctions instead, but a decision will not be reached until their next meeting, in December.
Berlin's representative, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, also refused to broach the possibility of a military operation, according to Reuters. "We are not taking part in the discussion on military intervention. We believe such discussions are counterproductive and we reject them,” he said.
In a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the report did not reflect the "full extent" of Iran's nuclear program and that “Iran is closer to getting an [atomic] bomb than is thought,” according to an Israeli official who spoke to Reuters. “Only things that could be proven were written [in the UN report], but in reality there are many other things that we see,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
In response to the discussion of a military attack, hundreds of Iranian university students on Tuesday formed a human chain around an Iranian nuclear site to show that they would be willing to sacrifice their lives if Israel attacked nuclear sites, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports.
After holding a noon prayer session in front of the plant's main gate, students from Isfahan universities shouted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." They vowed to resist in the event of an attack.
The plant in Isfahan and the neighboring uranium enrichment plant of Natanz are two probable targets of a possible Israeli air raid.