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      FM Lieberman: Sunni-Shi'ite Nuclear Arms Race Possible

      FM Lieberman warned that Iran may precipitate a nuclear arms race with its Arab neighbors. But he sees understanding of the need for cooperation.
      By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
      First Publish: 6/9/2009, 12:04 PM

      (Knesset TV channel)

      Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has warned that Iran may precipitate a nuclear arms race with its Arab, Sunni Muslim neighbors. However, the Foreign Minister believes, the international community understands the need for cooperation in handling regional threats.

      Addressing a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday morning, Lieberman said, "Events around the world have forced the international community into greater cooperation than could otherwise have been expected. The European Union and the Russians both understand that it is not possible to solve such problems without cooperation among all the international actors."

      In the case of Israel, the Foreign Minister said, "We are attempting to achieve a regional network to reach a solution. Everyone understands that cooperation is necessary."

      The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting was open to the public, in line with a decision made under the previous Olmert administration to allow transparency that would occur intermittently, circumstances permitting, due to issues of State security.

      Addressing the Iranian nuclear weapons program specifically, Foreign Minister Lieberman added, "The Arab Sunni [Muslim] world will not accept a situation in which only Iran has nuclear weapons. If Iran achieves a military nuclear capabilities, the entire region will enter an insane nuclear [arms] race with consequences that I need not detail."

      Regarding Iran's international activities, Lieberman cited the Islamic Republic's intensive efforts to spread its influence and undercover cells in Africa and South America. To counter this development, he said, Israel has an obligation to invest in diplomatic initiatives in those regions.

      Foreign Ministry representative Hayim Vaksman told the Knesset committee that "Iran is not cooperating with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency - ed.]. Iran is engaged in significant development in the field of missile technology." The issue remains at the highest priority level for the Ministry, he said.

      Vaksman pointed out that the international sanctions on Iran have, thus far, been ineffective. Not only that, but "in April, the Iranians received a proposal for starting a dialogue, but they refused," he said. Negotiations with Iran, under the April proposal, were to be conducted by the five members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.

      "This is a global problem. The international community must present Iran with a critical dilemma - cooperation or a heavy price it will have to pay," Vaksman said. "Action must be taken now, so that we don't wake up one morning and discover that it is too late."