McCain: Israel not planning strike on Iranian nuclear facilities

By Janine Zacharia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 7, 2010; 1:01 PM

JERUSALEM -- Israel is not at the moment considering a military strike on Iran to try to set back its nuclear program, U.S. Sen. John McCain said here Wednesday.

The Arizona Republican, who is in Israel with Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), spoke to reporters after meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli army chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

"I don't believe we are at the point of making that kind of decision, nor is the Israeli government, given the state that Iran is in now as far as the development of their nuclear weapons is concerned," McCain said in response to a question on whether he would support an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Neither McCain nor Graham gave blanket support for an Israeli attack in the future. McCain said it was impossible for him to say whether he would back such an operation because it "would be dictated by so many different circumstances." Graham said he wouldn't support an Israeli strike now because "there's many options still available to us." Lieberman did not address the question directly.

All three senators described Iran's nuclear program in impassioned terms as one of the greatest strategic challenges in the Middle East today and said that a military option might be necessary in the future if sanctions fail to halt the program.

"We will use every means that we have to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power through diplomatic and economic sanctions if we possibly can, through military action if we must," Lieberman said.

Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, was quoted by Iran's ISNA news agency on Wednesday as saying that sanctions could "slow down" Iran's nuclear activities but would not stop them.

The United Nations Security Council last month passed a new round of sanctions on Iran, and President Obama has signed into law U.S. sanctions that target exports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran.

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