Israel Condemns Russian-Iranian Nuclear Cooperation Deal

JERUSALEM (Agence France Presse) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned a Iranian-Russian nuclear cooperation accord concluded Tuesday as a threat to the entire region.
"The building of a nuclear reactor in Iran only makes it likelier that Iran will equip its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads," Netanyahu told Israeli public radio.
"Such a development threatens peace, the whole region and in the end, the Russians themselves," Netanyahu said.
"I hope that Russia will reconsider this initiative, which flies in the face of attempts to reach peace and stability in the region," he added.
Iran and Russia signed an accord Tuesday to speed up completion of a controversial nuclear reactor and study development of other nuclear plants in Iran.
The memorandum of understanding calls for the creation of joint research groups to study the addition of a second unit to the plant, located at the Gulf port of Bushehr, "as well as to build new-generation nuclear power plants in Iran," the official news agency IRNA reported.
Both Moscow and Tehran insist the plant is for non-military use and say its activities will be subject to scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors nuclear programs around the world.
"In our relations with other countries, we will not be influenced by interference from third parties," Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov said, apparently referring to the United States as well as Israel.
Both countries, regarded as Iran's greatest enemies, have opposed Russian cooperation with Iran on nuclear and military matters and fear the Islamic Republic may acquire the technological know-how to build nuclear weapons.
Israeli military chief of staff Shaul Mofaz raised the possibility in late September of a preemptive strike against Iran because of the threat posed by Iranian missiles. Iran's Shahab-3 missile is supposed to be capable of striking Israel.
To deal with the threat of ballistic missile attack, Israel has been developing in cooperation with the United States the Arrow, or Hetz, anti-missile missile, expected to be operational in 2000.
Israel's F15-I warplanes, delivered by the United States earlier this year, are capable of striking Iran or Iraq, carrying a payload of 11 tonnes of bombs and missiles.
Israel and Iran were allies when the Shah ruled in Tehran but have been enemies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the Iranian leader.
Israel has a nuclear reactor, as well as a reputed arsenal of between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons.
It has never acknowledged being a nuclear power, and is the only Middle East state that is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). ( (c) 1998 Agence France Presse)