BERLIN, March 8: If the UN Security Council is incapable of taking action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself, the country’s defence minister said on Wednesday.

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz was asked whether Israel was ready to use military action if the Security Council proved unable to act against what Israel and the West believe is a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

“My answer to this question is that the state of Israel has the right to give all the security that is needed to the people in Israel. We have to defend ourselves,” Mr Mofaz said after a meeting with his German counterpart, Franz Josef Jung.

Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons and says it is only interested in the peaceful generation of electricity. It has also threatened to retaliate if Israel or the United States were to bomb any of its nuclear facilities.

In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons.

“The Israeli approach is that the U.S. and the European countries should lead the issue of the Iranian nuclear programme to the table of the U.N. Security Council, asking for sanctions. And I hope the sanctions will be effective,” Mr Mofaz said.

Shaul Mofaz, who was born in Iran, added that Israel believed the 15-nation Security Council should grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, sweeping inspection powers so that it can smoke out any secret nuclear arms-related activities in Iran.

“We need to have very deep and large inspections within all the nuclear locations in Iran because Iran has two nuclear programmes — one is a covered one and the second is uncovered,” he said.

At a news conference with Mr Mofaz, his German counterpart said his country was already discussing with the five permanent Security Council members what the council could do to prevent Tehran getting the bomb.

“Everything must be done to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons,” Franz Josef Jung said. —Reuters

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