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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Iran threatens to hit Gulf

Iran's Defense Minister Ahamd Vahidi said yesterday that Western warships stationed in the Gulf are "best targets" for the Islamic republic if its nuclear sites are attacked, Fars news agency reported. Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to deliver a "crushing response" and hit US targets, including its bases in the Gulf and neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, if Iran's nuclear sites are attacked.

Why are there so many warships there? The Westerners know that these warships are the best target for operation by Iran if they do anything against (us)," Vahidi told a conference in Tehran. The United States and its regional ally Israel, which accuse Iran of seeking atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, have never ruled out a military option to thwart Tehran's nuclear drive. Iran denies the charges and has continued to expand its nuclear program despite UN sanctions.

As Israeli-German cabinet meet in Berlin, media reports indicated that Israel intends to station one of its German-made Dolphin submarines in the waters of the Arabian Gulf. Israel's use of the dolphin submarine in exercises in the Red Sea aroused fears that Israel may seek to maintain a continued presence in the Arabian Gulf as soon as it receives its submarines from Germany in 2011-2012.

The meeting, delayed in November due to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's illness, focused on Israel's push to buy a sixth Dolphin-class nuclear submarine from the Germans. During the daylong trip by the centre-right government, Netanyahu sought to expand Tel Aviv's submarine fleet. Israel has previously received three submarines as a donation from the government of the then German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The German newspaper Berliner Zeitung in 2003 revealed that Germany's leading shipyard company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft was involved in negotiations with Israel to construct two additional Dolphin submarines. The company confirmed the reports adding the German government had approved them. Days later the German Focus magazine reported that Tel Aviv would not be receiving the submarines as the German government had decided to halt the delivery of the two submarines to Israel.

The Dolphin submarines are among the most sophisticated and capable submarines in the world, that could be equipped with nuclear missiles. Built in German shipyards for the Israel Navy, the submarine is capable of carrying American-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. This is while political groups opposed to Israel's occupation, settler and war politics demonstrated near the Federal Chancellor's Office. "Why is a joint cabinet session taking place with a racist, fascist, Zionis ideology?" one of the groups asked in its announcement.

After the United States, Germany is the principal donor of both economic and military aid to Israel. While restrictive German export regulations bar the sale of weapons to crisis areas, the German government has justified its actions by describing the move as 'special responsibility' towards Tel Aviv.

In another development, Iran yesterday welcomed what it called the West's newfound "realism" on Tehran's controversial nuclear program after world powers failed to decide on new sanctions. China has urged flexibility on the standoff over Iran's nuclear drive and a return to negotiations. On the diplomatic front, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters: "Speaking of sanctions is repetitive and it is not constructive.

Some Western countries ... should correct their approach and be realistic about our (nuclear) rights. And we feel there are traces of realism to be seen," he added. On Monday, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made similar positive comments. "We are ready to help with the realistic approach and at the same time we will wait for public and backstage developments in Iran's nuclear case," Mottaki told reporters.

World powers made up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany met in New York on Saturday but failed to reach an agreement about new sanctions. The six are concerned about Tehran's rejection of a UN-brokered deal under which most of Iran's low enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile would be shipped abroad to be further enriched into reactor fuel.

Iran has come up with its own counter-proposal of a staged and simultaneous swap of LEU with nuclear reactor fuel. This has been largely rejected by world powers, insisting Tehran accept the International Atomic Energy Agency offer. The New York meeting brought together senior officials from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. But China, signaling its reluctance to back tougher sanctions pushed by the West, sent a lower-level diplomat.

In Beijing, Mehmanparast's opposite number, Ma Zhaoxu, also at a press conference yesterday, said: "China has all along proposed the proper settlement of the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and consultation ... "We hope relevant parties can enhance consultations, show flexibility and promote the early peaceful solution of the relevant issue in a proper manner." Ma said his country was aware of the proliferation concerns of the Western nations but insisted the Islamic republic had the right to the peace ful use of nuclear energy.- Agencies (Source kuwaittimes)