Defence

France, Russia warn against military strike on Iran

07.11.11 @ 13:21

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - France and Russia have in separate statements warned that a US or Israeli strike against Iran's alleged nuclear weapons facilities could destabilise the Middle East.

  • Persian carvings. Iran has threatened massive retaliation against Israel in the event of air strikes (Photo: velaia)

Speaking to Europe 1 radio on Saturday (5 November), French foreign minister Alain Juppe said the UN and EU should intensify sanctions instead of taking the military option.

"We will continue on this path [sanctions] because a military intervention could create a situation which completely destabilises the whole region and beyond. We have to do everything we can to avoid irreparable harm," he explained.

Juppe added that France would help defend Israel if a regional conflict breaks out, however: "I hope it doesn't come to that ... [But] if Israel is attacked, France would stand by its side."

For his part, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told Rossia 24 TV on Monday that a military strike would be "a grave error, with unforseeable consequences."

The warnings come two days before the UN's Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is due to circulate an internal report on Iran's nuclear activities.

The IAEA paper will not be made public until 17 November at the earliest. But leaks indicate it will give justification for hawks in Israel and the US to press for air strikes.

The Washington Post on Monday reported the IAEA paper will say: Iran already has sufficient information to design and produce a uranium-based nuclear warhead; it is conducting weapons tests at a military base in Parchin, near Tehran; and its know-how comes from rogue Russian nuclear scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko and Pakistani expert Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Israeli President Shimon Peres increased tensions on Friday in remarks to Channel Two News in Jerusalem.

Asked if the military option is now "closer" than the diplomatic one, he answered: "I believe so, I estimate that intelligence services of all these countries are looking at the ticking clock, warning leaders that there is not much time left."

A senior French defence ministry official told French daily Le Figaro on condition of anonymity he does not believe in Israel's threats: "Every now and again over the past five or six years, the Western tone mounts ... But a Western attack on Iran doesn't seem realistic to me."

An contact in the European External Action Service told EUobserver that Israel and the US will not consult with EU structures if they go ahead. "The first that we will hear about it is when we see bombs falling on CNN," the source said.