Israel’s Peres warns of nuclear Middle East

Israel says Iran’s nuclear program could allow Middle Eastern countries to follow suit

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Middle Eastern countries will want to obtain nuclear weapons if Iran is allowed to develop an atomic bomb, Israel’s President Shimon Peres said on Saturday ahead of a meeting with French President Francois Hollande.

Shimon Peres told a French newspaper that he appreciated France's firm stance in negotiations earlier this month on Iran's nuclear program, adding that there should be “no let-up” in the international pressure on Tehran, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We are convinced that if Iran manufactures its bomb, all the countries of the Middle East will want to follow suit,” the Israeli president was quoted as saying in French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche.

Peres will meet the French President on Sunday, in Hollande’s three-day visit to Israel amid the renewed efforts by the West to curb Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

The French president is also hoping to give a push to stalled peace talks with the Palestinians and to try to boost trade with Israel, which stood at $3 billion in 2011.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also urged on Saturday France to maintain its firm stance on international negotiations with Iran.

Hollande’s office said that although France’s “tactical approach” on Iran was different from Israel’s more bellicose stance, both seek to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon, according to AFP.

Israel and world powers suspect the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment program is aimed at obtaining nuclear weapons, an allegation vehemently denied by Tehran.

Iranian hardliners have blamed France for scampering a deal that would have given the West guarantees Tehran was not acquiring atomic weapons in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions against Iran.

The P5+1 negotiations with Tehran consist of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.

The talks are due to resume in Geneva in the coming week.

(With AFP)

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