Moscow: Israel`s mounting speculation that
Iran is moving closer to developing a nuclear weapon could
have "catastrophic consequences", a senior Russian foreign
ministry official warned on Thursday.
"The inventions" concerning Iran`s nuclear programme "are
increasing the tension and could encourage moves toward a
military solution with catastrophic consequences," Mikhail
Ulyanov told the Interfax news agency.
Speculation has risen in recent weeks, driven in part by
comments made by Israeli officials, that the Jewish state may
soon launch a military strike on Iran`s nuclear facilities to
slow or halt its controversial programme.
Israel and much of the international community believe
that Iran`s nuclear enrichment programme masks a covert
weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies.
The "noise" about Iran`s nuclear intentions "has
political and propaganda objectives which are far from being
inoffensive," said Ulyanov, head of the security and
disarmament department in Russia`s foreign affairs ministry.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said last month that
any decision by Israel on whether to attack Iran in a bid to
halt its nuclear programme remained "very far away."
However Israel`s chief of military intelligence, General
Aviv Kochavi, told a security conference last week that Iran
had enough radioactive material to produce four nuclear bombs.
And an expert on Israeli intelligence, Ronen Bergman,
wrote in the New York Times last month that an Israeli attack
could come this year.
But Ulyanov said "In our evaluations we prefer to be
based on the actual facts, which are that Iran`s nuclear
activity is under strict monitoring by the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."
Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the
Middle East, has supported tough sanctions against Iran while
refusing to take the military option off the table.
Russia has so far backed four rounds of UN Security
Council sanctions against Iran. But both Russia and China have
made it clear that they are not prepared to back any more.
Moscow`s position is that European and US sanctions
against Iran are aimed at undermining fresh talks on the issue
of Iran`s nuclear programme.