January 18, 2012 11:08 am

Israel ‘very far’ from decision to attack Iran

Reuters

JERUSALEM, Jan 18 - Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, said on Wednesday any decision about an Israeli attack on Iran was “very far off”.

Mr Barak was speaking on Israel’s army radio ahead of a planned visit this week by the US armed forces chief General Martin Dempsey that has triggered speculation that Washington would press Israel to delay any action against Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Asked whether the United States was asking Israel to let them know ahead of any assault against Iran, Mr Barak replied:

“We haven’t made any decision to do this,” and added: “This entire thing is very far off.”

Mr Barak also suggested Israel was coordinating with Washington its plans about handling Tehran’s nuclear project which Israel views as an existential threat.

“I don’t think our ties with the United States are such that they have no idea what we are talking about,” Mr Barak said.

When pressed as to whether “very far off” meant weeks or months, Mr Barak replied: “I wouldn’t want to provide any estimates. It’s certainly not urgent.”

“I don’t want to relate to it as though tomorrow it will happen,” Mr Barak said.

Iran says its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

Gen. Dempsey, the top US military officer, is due to travel to Tel Aviv for talks this week in which Iran is certain to be one of the key topics. It will be Gen. Dempsey’s first visit since becoming chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in September.

In a November 30 interview with Reuters, Gen. Dempsey said he did not know whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it decided to take unilateral military action against Iran.

He acknowledged differences in perspective between the United States and Israel over the best way to handle Iran and its nuclear programme.

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