Bloomberg: Israeli President Shimon Peres said Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to the entire Middle East and the “fanatic rulers of Iran are on the wrong side of history.”
By Indira Lakshmanan
May 4 (Bloomberg) — Israeli President Shimon Peres said Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to the entire Middle East and the “fanatic rulers of Iran are on the wrong side of history.”
“The aggressiveness of the Iranian government is not limited to Israel,” Peres said today in the keynote address to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington. “Indeed, they seek regional hegemony and want to control Arab states using terror and coercion.”
The U.S. and Israel suspect Iran is pursuing development of a nuclear weapon under the guise of trying to create a nuclear- power industry. Iran has rebuffed United Nations Security Council demands that it scale back its program and open it to wider scrutiny to prove its peaceful intent.
Peres praised President Barack Obama today, saying the new American leader “assumed his duties in a period of deep crisis in the world.”
“I am convinced he has the capacity to turn the crises into opportunity,” Peres said of Obama.
Obama has stepped up pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to accelerate a peace effort and last month invited leaders of both sides and Egypt to separate talks in Washington. Peres is scheduled to meet with Obama tomorrow, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Washington later this month.
The U.S. wants to help create a Palestinian state that is dedicated to peaceful ties with Israel. While Netanyahu has so far stopped short of endorsing Palestinian statehood, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said in a May 3 interview that “long-term peace and stability” involves the two-state solution.
“The Palestinian people have the right to govern themselves,” Peres said today. “We don’t want to be their masters.”
Netanyahu was skeptical of peace talks held with the Palestinians by his predecessor Ehud Olmert and has said he will focus on improving the Palestinian economy in the West Bank.
“Today there is no difference between the American position and our position,” Peres said. “Today we want to move ahead.”
Peres called the Arab League’s 2002 declaration that it was ready to negotiate with and eventually recognize Israel “a U- turn” that Israel hopes “will be translated into action.”
“I trust that the leadership of President Obama will pave the way to both a regional agreement and meaningful bilateral negotiations,” Peres told the Washington audience.