INTERVIEW-West should treat Syria, Iran like Libya-Israel

Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:45pm GMT
 

* Lieberman: West should take similar line with Iran, Syria

* Palestinians inciting Israel with recent attacks, bombing

By John Irish

PARIS, March 24 (Reuters) - Iran and Syria pose a greater security threat than Libya and the West should treat those countries in the same way as it has Muammar Gaddafi's government, Israel's foreign minister said on Thursday.

In a brief interview with Reuters after meeting his French counterpart, Alain Juppe, Avigdor Lieberman also said a recent upsurge of violence on the Gaza border and Wednesday's bomb attack in Jerusalem were "incitement" by the Palestinians.

Western warplanes hit Libyan tanks during a fifth night of airstrikes as they enforced a U.N. resolution aimed at stopping Gaddafi's counter-offensive against rebels seeking an end to his rule.

Lieberman did not explicitly call for military action against Syria and Iran, but he said: "I think that the same principles, activities the Western world (has taken) in Libya ... I hope to see those regarding the Iranian regime and the Syrian regime."

Syrian security forces fired on hundreds of youth protesters in southern Syria on Wednesday, according to witnesses, in a dramatic escalation of six days of protests in which at least 32 civilians have been killed.

"These two regimes kill more citizens than the Libyan regime does, and the threat from these countries is much more serious than that from Libya," Lieberman said. Iran has also used force to crush pro-democracy street protests in the recent past. Israeli naval commandos seized a cargo ship in the Mediterranean Sea on March 15 carrying what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said were Iranian-supplied weapons intended for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip..

Lieberman heads the right-wing nationalist "Israel Our Home" party which holds 15 pivotal seats in Netanyahu's 74-seat coalition in the 120-member Knesset.

Analysts say that position has given him broad licence to tell the United Nations that Middle East peace is a distant dream, whatever Netanyahu may say, and promote a "loyalty oath" for Israeli Arabs to flush out the unpatriotic.

PALESTINIAN "INCITEMENT"

Violence on the Gaza border has spiked in recent days and a bomb attack in Jerusalem that police blamed on Palestinian militants killed one woman and injured 30 people on Wednesday. It was the first such attack in the city since 2004.

Lieberman called the surge in violence a direct result of "incitement" on the Palestinian side.

Peace talks aimed at ending the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last year after Netanyahu refused to extend a partial freeze on Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

"I see a lot of efforts in the Palestinian Authority for reconciliation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but I don't see any readiness for direct talks with Israel," he said. "It is totally unacceptable."

Lieberman said Israel was ready for direct talks with the Palestinians despite the current status quo.

"I believe any change in the peace process must be as a result of direct talks and not unilateral steps and not as a unilateral decision even of the international community," he said. (Additional reporting by Ludovic Vickers; editing by Paul Taylor)

 
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