(Haaretz) – Iran is the world’s “center of terror” which seeks to impose its will on the Middle East, President Shimon Peres said Tuesday during a historic visit to Berlin.
“Ahmadinejad’s regime is openly calling for Israel’s destruction, denying the Holocaust, and preventing peace with the Palestinians. It is destabilizing Lebanon and Yemen and trying to take over Iraq,” Peres said on the eve of his address to the Bundestag.
Today’s center of terror is in Iran,” Peres said. “Terror is the military wing of Iran’s political ambitions. The Iranians aspire to take control of the Middle East, and to destabilize existing regimes.”
Earlier Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Peres that February will be a “decisive” month in the West’s diplomatic standoff with Iran over its alleged nuclear program.
Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment would compel the United Nations to impose harsh sanctions against the Islamic republic, Merkel warned.
During a joint press conference with the German leader, Peres praised the chancellor for “her extraordinary friendship” with Jerusalem and “her steadfast stance on the Iranian issue.”
Merkel called on the international community to reach consensus on sanctions against Tehran.
“The issue of sanctions will be brought to the agenda when France assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council [next month],” Merkel said. “February will be a decisive month.”
Israeli officials said that Merkel had already discussed the matter with her French counterpart, President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France on Tuesday called on the European Union to ramp up pressure on Iran following reports that the country would have enough weapons-grade uranium for a ‘truck-sized’ bomb within a year, Army Radio reported.
The French Minister for Europe, Pierre Lellouche, reportedly told EU colleagues in Brussels that Europe must prepare to impose tougher sanctions.
“Talks with Iran have continued for six years now and all of the West’s proposals have been rejected,” the AFP news service quoted him as saying. “We hope Europe will work together to implement sanctions.”
The officials added that the German leader is convinced that the time for discussions has passed, and that what is needed is action. The international community’s indecision with respect to Iran sends a bad message to the regime, Merkel told Israeli officials.
Nonetheless, Merkel told reporters on Tuesday that Germany is solely intent on seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Peres praised Merkel’s role in thwarting major business deals between German companies and the Iranian regime. Despite the fact that Germany is Iran’s largest trading partner, Merkel’s office said Tuesday that it is working to reduce the scope of the country’s business transactions with Tehran.
A German company announced Monday that it was canceling a lucrative construction contract to supply equipment and services to the port in the Iranian city of Bandar-Abbas.
The move came in response to intense pressure applied by Israel on the German government. The Israeli embassy in Berlin appealed to senior officials in Merkel’s office as well as Foreign Ministry and commerce leaders. The Israelis reminded German officials that Bandar-Abbas is the port used by Iranians to ship weapons and ammunition to Hezbollah and Hamas.
A diplomatic source said that Israeli officials in the Berlin embassy became aware of the deal last week, and that the Hamburg-based company involved in the transaction was partly owned by the government.
Embassy officials launched intense discussions with German diplomats in an effort to scupper the deal. The Israelis told the Germans that the Iranian weapons ship which was commandeered in the Mediterranean Sea last year, and which was believed bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon, had originally departed from the Bandar-Abbas port.
Israel said it viewed the deal as tantamount to German aid to Iran’s armament of terrorist organizations, which represent a violation of Security Council resolutions. German officials subsequently intimated to the company heads that it would be preferable if the transaction did not go forward. As a result, the company announced three days ago that it had cancelled the deal.