Tags: israel | iran

Israel Won't Attack Iran Alone: Peres

Monday, 10 Mar 2008 07:23 PM

By Stewart Stogel

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UNITED NATIONS -- Israel has no intention of "unilaterally" attacking Iran.

That was the surprising statement of President Shimon Peres to the French newspaper Le Figaro on the eve of a state visit to Paris, which began Monday.

Peres, on his first official visit to France as president, will be the guest of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will join him in a 100-member escort of mounted and motorcycle police up the Champs Elysee.

The Peres visit will last four days and include a memorial for the Yeshiva students killed in a Jerusalem terror attack last Thursday.

On Iran, which was the subject of new U.N. sanctions for refusing to suspend controversial nuclear activities, Peres seemed to contradict earlier statements by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who insisted that his government was "keeping all options open."

Said Peres:

"I would prefer to stop the development of the atomic bomb without getting thrown into a war...sanctions have proven in the past to be effective."

When the newspaper raised the issue if Israel "was prepared to go it alone?" Peres answered with an emphatic, "Not a chance."

The comments are considered unusual because the position of president of Israel is a ceremonial, non-political office.

The Israeli president is not a member of the prime minister's government, nor is he consulted with on government affairs.

However, unlike former Israeli presidents, Peres has held every top-level post in government, including prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister.

As such, his words carry significant weight.

He is also suspected of fronting for Olmert, whose own popularity in Israel has seen a precipitous decline.

Just last week, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni openly spoke of a possible Israeli re-occupation of the Gaza strip.

The strip has seen Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel proper and retaliatory incursions by the Israeli army for the last several weeks.

Both the Iran and Gaza issues have been pecking away at Olmert, who is seen inside Israel as letting others openly take positions he cannot due to his weakened state.

Livni has openly called for Olmert "to retire" to leave the way open for her to succeed him.

Peres, on the other hand, does not have any long-term political agenda, having spent more than 50 years in government.

Meanwhile, Olmert and Livni will prepare to receive Vice President Dick Cheney next week.

Cheney was dispatched by President Bush to consult with leaders in Israel, the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Turkey on the deteriorating situations in the Gulf region and the Middle East.

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