Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Israel, U.S. storm out of UN

Israel, U.S. storm out of UN nuclear forum
Haaretz Staff and Agencies March 14

The Israel and U.S. delegations walked out of the United Nations' disarmament forum in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday after Iran said Israel was the "real source of nuclear danger in the Middle East" and had a "dark record of crimes."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the Conference on Disarmament that Israel's nuclear weapons posed a "uniquely grave threat to regional and international peace and security" requiring action by the international community.

In a statement, Israel's ambassador Itzhak Levanon to the UN in Geneva, said that he and his aides, and the entire U.S. delegation had "abruptly left the room as the Foreign Minister of Iran ... was in the middle of a vitriolic speech".

A U.S. spokeswoman in Geneva confirmed the walk-out and called Mottaki's remarks "outrageous and divisive" at a time the forum was trying to find common ground on global arms issues.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres said yesterday that a peaceful solution must be found to the Iranian nuclear problem, despite its president's vow to wipe Israel off the map.

"I wouldn't like to darken the future with belligerent declarations," Peres said at a news conference when asked about the possibility of a preemptive strike.

"I do hope that the problem can be solved economically, politically and psychologically."

Peres is in Tokyo for a four-nation meeting today about Middle East peace that includes officials from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and host Japan, as well as a two-day confidence-building conference that starts today.