Friday, January 20, 2006

Italian Minister: World Must Confront Iran

Victor Simpson, The Guardian:
Iran's nuclear program is testing the resolve of the international community, and the world needs a unified approach to the escalating diplomatic standoff, Italy's foreign minister said Friday.

``The international community must have a defined, very precise, very united strategy,'' Gianfranco Fini told The Associated Press. READ MORE

Iran is facing possible referral to the U.N. Security Council for its refusal to give up its uranium enrichment program. The council has the power to impose economic and political sanctions.

European powers have drafted a resolution that calls for referring Iran to the 15-nation council but stops short of asking for punitive measures against Iran. The International Atomic Energy, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, will meet Feb. 2 to discuss the draft.

The United States accuses Tehran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains the program is for generating electricity.

Fini also warned that any pre-emptive strike by Israel on Iranian nuclear facilities would have potentially disastrous consequences for the Middle East and the world.

``The international community must absolutely do everything in its power to avert an even bigger conflict,'' he told the AP.

``With the same firmness with which I say that Iran represents a danger and therefore we need to be very firm and very decisive ... I tell Israel that you cannot and must not think of launching a pre-emptive attack because it would set the whole Middle East and the whole world on fire for who knows how many decades.''

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned earlier this week that Israel cannot allow countries with ``hostile intentions'' to acquire weapons of mass destruction, a clear reference to Iran.

Fini also said that prosecutors have the ``right and duty'' to determine whether a U.S. soldier was at fault in the killing of an Italian agent in Iraq last year.

Nicola Calipari was killed by U.S. gunfire as he headed to Baghdad airport in March after securing the release of an Italian hostage. An Italian prosecutor said this week that the United States has not responded to requests for details of the soldier's identity.

``Italian prosecutors have the right and duty to verify responsibility and possible guilt,'' Fini said.

He also said he would become premier if his right-wing party wins the most votes in April elections.

Asked if he would be ready to take over as prime minister should his party defeat Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative Forza Italy party, he said, in English: ``Of course.''

Fini, who is also deputy premier, said Berlusconi agreed, adding in Italian: ``We know the rules of the game.''

In the last parliamentary election, in 2001, Berlusconi's party soundly defeated Fini's National Alliance.