A unilateral Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be an “absolute catastrophe” for the world, warned French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday at the G8 summit in Italy. Among other issues, the forum discussed Iran’s nuclear program which is believed by leading Western powers to be secretly pursing an atomic bomb.
"Israel should know that it is not alone and look at all this calmly. If I have fought so hard in the name of France to get people talking about Iran it's also a message to the Israelis that they are not alone," Sarkozy said.
Speculations that Israel might attack Iran grew earlier in the week after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden responded to a question about that possibility by saying that Israel had a sovereign right to decide what were its best interests.
Leaders at the summit agreed to pursue a negotiated deal with Iran, setting a September deadline for the theocracy to accept negotiations on its nuclear program or face more sanctions. Russia blocked the G8 leaders from immediately pushing for further sanctions.
While Tehran continues to reject all overtures for talks and insists it is developing nuclear technology to generate electricity, Sarkozy acknowledged that patience was running thin.
"For the past six years we have extended our hand saying 'stop your nuclear armament program'... Do they want discussions or don't they want them? If they don't, there will be sanctions," he said.
The Iran nuclear situation will be reviewed at a G-20 meeting of developed and developing countries in Pittsburgh on September 24, and that "if there is no progress by then, we will have to take decisions," Sarkozy said.
Israel: 'Positive and negative'
Senior Israeli government officials said they viewed the G-8 September deadline as both positive and negative. The events following the contested June presidential elections in Iran had Israel concerned that the international community would try to push back discussions until things settled. The new deadline shows a commitment to deal with Iran’s nuclear program despite the country’s internal issues, the officials said.
On the other hand, they added, the deadline signals that the international community prefers engagement to immediate sanctions which many felt should be imposed following the Iranian regime's brutal repression of election protests.
The U.S. is still waiting for an Iranian answer to President Barack Obama's offer of engagement on the nuclear issue.