"We know that the Europeans are trying now to engage with the Iranians. But we know that the Iranians will never abandon their plans to develop nuclear weapons. They are only trying to hide it," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said on Wednesday at the United Nations.

   

He said European nations were waking up to the realisation that Iran was developing missiles that could hit Paris, Berlin and London as well as Israel.

   

Iran says its nuclear programme, some of which it concealed for years from UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is purely for peaceful purposes.

 

Defiance

   

Iran on Tuesday defied an IAEA
resolution on enriched uranium

Tehran defied a resolution by the agency's board on Tuesday by announcing it had begun converting a large amount of raw uranium to prepare it for enrichment, a process that can be used to develop atom bombs.

 

Shalom, whose own country is widely assumed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, dodged questions about whether Israel might attempt a military strike on Iranian nuclear installations as it did on Iraq in 1981.

   

Security sources in Jerusalem said on Tuesday the United States plans to sell Israel 500 "bunker buster" bombs that could be effective against Iran's underground facilities.

 

Diplomacy

 

Powell has refused to rule out
military options against Tehran

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to reporters later, said that in his discussions with Shalom on Tuesday there was no talk of striking Iran but rather of using diplomacy to make Tehran allay international concerns about its nuclear programme. 

 

"I'm not aware of any plans to attack Iran," Powell said, though he twice refused to rule out military options. "Every nation has all options available to it.

   

"We're talking about diplomacy and political efforts to stop this movement on the part of the Iranians toward a nuclear weapon and we're not talking about strikes. But every option always of course remains on the table."

 

Cover

 

Shalom accused Tehran of using diplomacy as a cover while pressing ahead with a weapons programme.

   

"We know that the Iranians will never abandon their plans to develop nuclear weapons"

Silvan Shalom,
Israeli foreign minister

"They are trying to buy time, and the time is come to move the Iranian case to the [UN] Security Council in order to put an end to this nightmare," he said.

   

"We are trying to do everything we can in order to convince the members of the IAEA to take the right decision to move it to the Security Council and afterward of course for the Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran if it will not comply," the Israeli minister added.

   

European Union ministers plan to press Iran in a series of meetings on the sidelines of this week's UN session to abandon all activities that could lead to nuclear weapon capability before a decisive IAEA board meeting on 26 November.