'Israel itself must decide on Iran strike'



`Israel itself must decide on Iran strike` Jerusalem: Leading US Republicans told Israel on Tuesday it must make up its own mind whether to launch a preemptive strike on Iran if the Islamic republic seeks to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

Visiting Jerusalem at the head of a delegation of five senators, former presidential candidate John McCain said Iran was pursuing a nuclear arms programme, sponsoring militant groups and was "openly committed to the destruction of state of Israel."

"Israel probably is most capable of determining what the threats are to their national security,' he said in a press conference. "I think they are a sovereign nation and their assessment is one that if I were an Israeli citizen I would rely on more than that of another government."

In an interview at the weekend, top US military commander Martin Dempsey bluntly said it would be "premature" to launch military action against Iran.

"A strike at this time would be destabilising and wouldn't achieve (Israel's) long-term objectives," he said.

On Sunday, Britain's foreign secretary William Hague said it would not be "wise" for Israel to take military action against Iran, echoing comments earlier this month by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a fellow Republican in McCain's delegation, said "I think that the comments telling Israel what to do and not to do vis-a-vis Iran are very unhelpful."

"I just want to tell our Israeli friends my advice is never lose control of your destiny," Graham said. "You do what is necessary to control your own destiny and you have my full blessing."

Israel is calling for harsher international sanctions against Iran, which denies pursuing nuclear arms, but the Jewish state refuses to rule out using force if other options fail.

In 1981, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on the unfinished Osirak reactor outside the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, leaving US officials stunned and earning it a sharp rebuke from its American ally.

PTI