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01/18/12

Israel Says Decision on Iran Attack "Far Off"

Source: VOA

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says any decision on whether to attack Iran's nuclear program is “very far off.” Barak said Wednesday no decision has been made to take such action, as Israel prepares for a visit this week by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey.

Russia said Wednesday a military strike against Iran would be a “catastrophe” that would inflame tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites in the region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said all possible sanctions against Iran's nuclear program have been “exhausted.”

He said additional sanctions have “nothing to do” with nuclear non-proliferation and instead are aimed at hurting the Iranian economy and people.

The United States and its allies have been tightening sanctions on Iran to pressure it into stopping enriching uranium. They accuse of Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

European Union diplomats said Tuesday their member states are set to ban the import of Iranian oil from July 1, giving companies time to phase out existing contracts. The deal is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

But as Iran prepares to host a delegation of senior U.N. nuclear officials later this month, Lavrov says an EU embargo could hurt the chances of renewing negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program.

No date has been set for any new talks between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, a group known as the P5+1.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Wednesday during a visit to Turkey that any new negotiations would most probably take place in Istanbul.

The P5+1 last met with Iran a year ago, also in Turkey, but the talks ended with no agreement.

The EU bought about a fifth of Iranian oil last year, collectively rivaling China as the main buyer.

An EU embargo would deprive Iran of vital foreign currency income. Iran is the second largest oil producer in the OPEC cartel after Saudi Arabia.

Iran has threatened to respond to an oil embargo by closing the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for the global oil trade. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Iran's threat “provocative and dangerous.”

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